Dual is a movie that keeps audiences guessing up until its emotional final scene. Making its world premiere at The Sundance Film Festival, the science fiction dark comedy-thriller is about a woman named Sarah (Karen Gillan) who is diagnosed with a fatal disease. In order to make things easier for those closest to her, she undergoes a cloning procedure. Within a year, both of their lives change.
In a story filled with a lot to talk about, the tone stands out most. Dual takes on serious themes- sense of self is the most obvious – but it is unafraid to laugh. The jokes never follow the set up to punchline formula, and are often just normal comments. This leads to many scenes dealing with literal life or death situations having the tension being cut with dry humor.
This gives the movie an odd tone that has to be seen to truly be appreciated. This is not a script that throws everything at the wall and sees what sticks. Each wry comment in Dual is well placed and timed perfectly.
Writer-director Riley Stearns does an excellent job of integrating comedy into the sci fi story. Some of the jokes may seem out of place or in poor taste, but the writing helps every one land. There are a number of moments where Dual will have audiences worried about what will happen next before an out of nowhere quip leads to laughter. It is a roller coaster of feelings.
Gillan is spectacular in a (sorta) dual role. Sarah has a matter of fact attitude whenever she speaks with someone. Though she sometimes has troubles dealing with how she is feeling, she always knows what she wants. This makes Sarah a character who is unintentionally funny, easy to empathize with, and incredibly likable.
Sarah’s clone (who, in a clever bit of writing, seems to be going around as “Sarah’s double”) is an interesting character on her own. She likes different types of food and enunciates words slightly differently. The doppelganger even has the same straightforward attitude of the original.
The two share little screen time together, but those interactions help paint a complete picture of a whole character. It is their moments alone in which Sarah is fully realized, however. In their own ways, each is living a lie. Ultimately, Dual ends up being a unique character study.
The Sundance Film Festival is online January 20- January 30. Tickets can be purchased and a full lineup can be found here.
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