It’s a real shame to see grand ideas caged by a limited budget, but that’s exactly what’s happened with this British sci-fi romance.
Frequencies is set in an alternative universe where everyone’s luck is measured by ‘frequency’. People with a high frequency are lucky, prosperous and a whole host of other positive things; whereas, people with lower frequencies are less lucky, more clumsy and a whole host of other negative things. It’s an interesting concept, I suppose, especially when viewed as a reflection of class. But, it often just comes across as a method of illustrating the differences between our two star-crossed lovers; Zak and Marie.
Marie is a ridiculously high frequency and Zak is hopelessly low (negative, in fact). As a result, the two of them can’t be near each other for more than a minute before something terrible happens (falling objects, and the like); and that’s the overwhelming obstacle the two of them must overcome if they are to be with each other.
However, rather than just setting up the challenge and just letting it fly, Darren Paul Fisher (writer-director) feels the need to start explaining it all and the entire movie ultimately shifts it’s focus onto the hard sci-fi concept at the centre of this story. But, as with so much cinematic faux-science, the more they try to explain it, the more flimsy it becomes. And, when the characters start scribbling down equations, it all just falls to pieces, quite frankly. By this stage, I didn’t believe a word of their ‘scientific’ ramblings, which meant I’d lost interest by the time the big final act reveal hit.
The movie is also brought down by a forced set of performances from the child actors. We first meet Zak and Marie during their early teens. We then jump to their mid-teens, before sticking with them as young adults; and those first four actors are obvious weak links. In fact, very few of the performances ring true in those early scenes. Marie comes across as overly cold, on both occasions; supposedly as a result of her frequency, but that seems to be the only depth Fisher asked of his young performers.
Things do improve, however, when we reach Daniel Fraser and Eleanor Wyld as older versions of the characters. Their performances are more dramatically engaging and naturalistic, and Fisher does some interesting work providing the audience with both sides of the story. He also crafts some touching, and well observed, reflections on the class-divide and changing ‘luck’, but a couple of flashback sections do disrupt the flow somewhat.
On their own, minimalistic production values aren’t a major problem. But, tie that in to an increasingly muddled narrative drive and (sometimes purposefully) wooden performances, and we’re left unengaged by a wasted concept. I wanted to like Frequencies, I really did, but it left me severely underwhelmed.
This review was originally written for Close-Up Film and the film is out now on DVD and VOD, in the UK.