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The Recursion Theorem

You know how sometimes you wake up abruptly for some reason and can't quite figure out where you are at first? It never lasts for more than a moment or two, thankfully, but it's always a strange and unsettling sensation. In The Recursion Theorem, that feeling takes on a life of its own. A man (Dan Franko) finds himself awakening in a room he's never seen before, an old-fashioned room where the comfy touches like a bowl of fresh fruit and vintage books to read can't quite counteract the effects of the apocalyptic paintings on the walls.

The man remembers at least part of his name, Mr. Everett, but everything else is rather shaky. He's wearing a slightly rumpled suit of no particular style, with nothing in the pockets, and none of the few items he finds around the room -- a knife, a heavy iron key, a crystal decanter and glasses -- offer any clues as to where he is. No one else seems to be around, so naturally he decides to go look for some help.

But no sooner has he stepped out of the room than he's stepping right back into it again from the other side. In fact, no matter how he tries to leave he only circles back around in impossible ways and finds himself right back where he started, all his experiments getting him nowhere, literally. Whatever he does, the room refuses to let him go.

Recursion is a term from math and computing, referring to the repeated application of a rule or procedure. That dry little definition is turned into something compelling here, as we're drawn into Mr. Everett's increasing desperation -- not just to escape, but to hang onto his sanity in this new, impossible world. He imagines a 'bartender' of sorts, who looks exactly like him but acts uncomfortably like the bartender from The Shining at times. But in the end, he has only himself to rely on, and whether or not that will be enough to get him through is a tricky question.

Reviews often say that a particular actor carries the whole film, but it's rarely so true as in this case. And Franko does an excellent job, portraying a great deal of emotion without ever going too far over the top even when talking to himself, in more ways than one. Reminiscent of the Twilight Zone, it's a wonderful brain teaser of a film full of striking images that will keep you watching and wondering right along with the hapless Mr. Everett.

Image: 
Mr. Everett about to make another unsettling discovery about the room.

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