SXSW Film Review: 'Open Windows'

A restrictive conceit becomes the film's most engaging feature

Open Windows starts simply. Blogger-nobody Nick Chambers (Elijah Wood) won a contest and is set to meet actress Jill Goddard (Sasha Grey) at Austin’s Fantastic Fest. But that plot point quickly becomes old news, and from there the film never lets up. The ride is bumpy but mesmerizing.

From Spanish director, Fantastic Fest–mainstay, and wonderful crazy-pants Nacho Vigalondo (Timecrimes, Extraterrestrial), Open Windows is gleefully neither realistic nor cohesive. This techno thriller has more monologue-explained plot twists than Clue, and ambitiously constraining the entire film to a laptop screen adds to the mayhem; the camera is constantly panning through computer windows, darting among security footage, cell phones, maps, video chats, and dashboard cams.

Surprisingly, the laptop conceit is nearly impeccable. What should be gimmicky instead becomes the film’s most engaging aspect. However, the narrative holds the movie back. The plot constantly asks us to suspend rationality until the suspension collapses entirely.

But perhaps that’s forgivable – giallo isn’t known for coherence (think Phenomena’s razor-wielding chimpanzee). And the ardor is admirable and watchable. If this is what we get when Vigalondo goes too far, I’m down. I’d rather be transfixed by an overzealous Nacho misstep than watch many other directors’ sure feet.

Open Windows

Visions, World Premiere
Thursday, March 14, 4:30pm, Alamo Slaughter
Saturday, March 15, 11am, Ritz

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South by Southwest, SXSW, SXSW Film 2014, SXSW 2014, Open Windows, Nacho Vigalondo, Elijah Wood, Sasha Grey, review, Fantastic Fest, giallo

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