‘Chained for Life’ Review: Truths Seen and Unseen
“Chained for Life” is an inventive hall of mirrors from the writer-director Aaron Schimberg that keeps finding ways to upend its characters’ — and viewers’ — perspectives.
It takes place during the shooting of a horror movie whose cast includes actors with pronounced physical anomalies. (These actors soon begin making their own film after hours.)
The star of the main production is Mabel (Jess Weixler), an actress in the role of a blind woman whose sight will be restored, allowing her to gaze on, for the first time, the man she loves. He is played by Rosenthal (Adam Pearson, a British actor who himself has facial disfigurements caused by neurofibromatosis, a genetic condition). Nervous about meeting Rosenthal, Mabel retreats to the restroom to rehearse introducing herself (she flubs it anyway).
Trying too hard to be helpful, Mabel gives the less-seasoned Rosenthal a quick acting lesson, during which Schimberg cuts between close-ups of his stars’ faces. Part of the sweetness of the film is that Rosenthal quickly emerges as the most good-humored person on set, and Pearson as an actor of great charm. (The name Rosenthal may mark him as an outsider in a different sense — that is, as a Jew.)
“Chained for Life” aims to complicate ideas about what constitutes beauty and sincerity onscreen. It even hints at a loose parallel between plastic surgery, which can be seen as helping people look the way they feel inside, and filmmaking; both are mechanisms for creating illusions, but also have the potential for revealing hidden truths. Schimberg’s film is odd, darkly funny and — when it means to be — a little frightening.
Chained for Life
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 31 minutes.
Chained for Life
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