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The Independent Critic

Zach Mandel, Callie Chaffin, Elizabeth Wood
Chris Deleo
86 Mins.

 "Mnemonica" Review 
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"What kind of dream can make a person feel so good, and so terrible at the same time?"

Bucky (Zach Mandel) is a loner. Caught up by the memory of a dead friend, Meghan (Elizabeth Wood), Bucky exists in his own, isolated and off-kilter world working for Mr. Klosterman (Eric Decamps) at the city power plant. He's a tech whiz, but socially he is for the most part non-existent. Alice (Callie Chaffin), his boss's daughter, takes a liking to him and becomes determined to win his attention if she can only get him away from that dead girl.

Written and directed by Chris Deleo, Mnemonica is one of those extraordinary little indie gems that you can't help but find yourself mesmerized while you're watching it unfold before your eyes.

What does it all mean?


What just happened?

Rewind again.

Mnemonica is a film that begs to be seen more than once, a visually arresting kaleidoscope of images and words with noirish touches weaving themselves into the fabric of this fascinating character study.

Bucky becomes ever more fascinating as the film evolves, as does the film itself. Deleo reveals Bucky's backstory slowly and, in turn, Mnemonica unfolds slowly yet with a tremendous intentionality where every frame feels vital to understanding, comprehending and appreciating the fullness of the film's experience.

Who is Bucky and precisely what is all of this really about?

Every time it seems that Mnemonica settles into a style or genre, Deleo changes gears and takes his able cast right along with him. Newcomer Zach Mandel is mesmerizing as Bucky, a young man who is either wounded or grieving or psychotic or seriously fucked up.

Or maybe he's not.

The truth is that it's hard to figure Bucky out, yet Mandel does a stellar job of bringing us along anyway. We can't help but care about Bucky, even if we're not exactly sure why we care about Bucky. We see something in Bucky, which makes it completely believable as we watch Alice almost inexplicably become interested in him. When Mandel and Chaffin are on the screen together, there's a slowly building emotional simmer that is simply fascinating to experience. As mesmerizing as is Mandel, Chaffin is quietly hypnotic as the young woman whose character seems more normal yet is no less fascinating than that of Bucky.

Early on, Mnemonica feels a lot like Rian Johnson's Brick, but as the film develops it resembles a dramatic variation on the vastly underrated Lars and the Real Girl, a film that itself centered around a socially awkward man, a real girl and a not so real girl.

Deleo also contributes the film's exceptional original music and serves as the film's D.P., which helps to explain the film's technical consistency across the board. Kudos to Kimberly Naughton, as well, for a production design that serves both function and story quite nicely.

With its varying tones, multiple layers and thought-provoking imagery, Mnemonica is surely not for the casual or "entertainment only" moviegoer. However, those who appreciate quality, thought provoking independent cinema will undoubtedly appreciate the way Mnemonica grabs hold of you and doesn't let go all the way until its final, memorable scene.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic