Synopsis: After his car breaks down, Glen spends one hell of an odd night with a married couple, setting into motion a chain of events that alter their lives plus those of several random strangers.
Stars: Vincent Kartheiser, Chelsea Lopez, Breeda Wool, Tunde Adebimpe, Rainey Qualley, Chris Gartin, Bob Stephenson
Director: Rob Schroeder
Running Length: 103 minutes
TMMM Score: (7/10)
Review: It takes all of five minutes for Ultrasound to get weird. Like, the kind of weird where you put your hands over your eyes in awkward embarrassment and glance over your shoulder to see if anyone else is listening even though you know you’re the only one in the room weird. Right about the time Glen (Vincent Kartheiser, Untamed Heart), a stranded motorist who knocks on the door of Art (Bob Stephenson, Lady Bird) and his wife Cyndi (Chelsea Lopez, Novitiate) in the hope of calling for assistance realizes he should have waited in his car is when you also understand how director Rob Schroeder and screenwriter Conor Stechschulte have ensnared you just as tightly in their prickly trap of a film.
While it ultimately means something different here, have you ever been shown an ultrasound by expectant parents who excitedly think you’re able to see the same clear picture of their growing child? I have, and I’ve learned to fess up and say “Show me”; otherwise, I’m complimenting how perfect their nose is when it’s not a nose at all. Schroeder and Stechschulte’s film is similar in the way that what you see is often not what is there, and it takes time as the film progresses for the two to outline the shape and size of what’s taking place for Glen, Art, and Cyndi in the days that follow their meeting.
After leaving their home, Glen returns to his life without much thought, and the film pivots. Sidestepping swiftly, we are introduced to a pregnant woman (Rainey Qualley, another daughter of Andie MacDowell) and her married politician boyfriend (Chris Gartin, Flightplan), as well as medical therapist Shannon (Breeda Wool, Mass) working alongside Dr. Connors (Tunde Adebimpe, She Dies Tomorrow) on a classified project. They are seemingly unrelated, but, of course, they all are connected and not in the most pleasant ways.
I wouldn’t dare give away what happens after Art knocks on Glen’s door with a video camera in one hand and critical information to share with him. It moves Ultrasound in a direction I wasn’t expecting, and then right about the time you were getting comfortable peeling back its multiple onion layers of secrets, another twist is thrown, and you realize you were handling an apple all along. Don’t be surprised if that apple becomes an orange or another object before the movie is over because the filmmakers seem to revel in reveals (even minute ones) that make you question what truths it’s telling and what might be trickery. The nicest thing about it is that it does all this without becoming a frustrating exercise in being too clever for its own good.
Based on Stechschulte’s four-volume comic, you can see the vision was there from the start (it had to be), and that’s why by the time the end credits are rolling, you’re able to go back and see how all the pieces fit together. The cast adds a great deal to the success of it all, too. Known mostly for his work on TV’s Mad Men, Kartheiser (a MN native!) does well with this rankled, rumpled average guy caught up in a messy situation. Stephenson’s just pleasant enough to temper his occasional menace with a softer edge, yielding another character that may not set out to be a villain take on villainous tendencies. The leading women in the film fare best, with Lopez solid playing the confused pawn moved around for the advantage of others and Wool especially excellent giving her character a significant backstory that feels complete enough while still serving the main plot.
I’ll be looking for more features like this from Schroeder as a director and Stechschulte as a content creator. If it loses points in any place, it’s for some generic happenings in the final act that feel like expected caps, oft-used to put a blunt period at the end of what had been a creative, nicely worded sentence. Up until those final minutes, Ultrasound was echoing through my brain and firing on all cylinders.