Directed by: Scott McGehee, David Siegel | 101 minutes | drama, romance | Actors: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Lynn Collins, Assumpta Serna, Nelson Landrieu, Manoel Felciano, Jenn Colella, Giana Luca, Sofia Luca, Fred Berman, Sonnie Brown, Sara Chase, Angel David, Saidah Arrika Ekulona, Marin Gazzaniga, Michaela M Hill , Rick Kain, Ana Kayne, Robert C. Kirk, Madeline Lee, Marcella Lowery, Chris Meyer, Doua Moua, Daniel Oreskes, Ted Oyama, Al Roffe, Joe Star, Olivia Thirlby, Patrick M. Walsh, Ed Wheeler, Ryan Alan Dearth
What would have happened if you had made different choices in your life? The theme of fate plays a crucial role in many films. One of the best-known is perhaps ‘Sliding Doors’ (1998), which shows the turn someone’s life – in this case that of a PR lady played by Gwyneth Paltrow – takes when she misses the metro or just catches it. ‘Uncertainty’ (2009) elaborates on this theme. The movie begins with a scene on the Brooklyn Bridge. Two young lovers (Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Lynn Collins) toss a coin to determine whether to turn left, into Manhattan, or right into Brooklyn. It does not matter much what the outcome is, because he goes one way and she the other, where they each meet again in their own alternative universe.
That feeling is reinforced when you consider how much the two universes differ from each other. Not only in terms of content, but especially in terms of tension and dynamics. In Manhattan, the young lovers find a cell phone in a taxi. If they want to return it to the rightful owner, it will cause problems. The cell phone turns out to be quite popular and before they know it, Bobby (Levitt) and Kate (Collins) are chased by all kinds of shadowy figures. Then they come up with the bright idea of demanding a ‘finder’s fee’ of half a million dollars for the mobile phone. Not entirely credible behavior for the otherwise exemplary behavior in their twenties, but the adventure that Bobby and Kate experience in Manhattan certainly manages to hold the viewer’s attention well.
How different is that in the other story. In Brooklyn, drama is paramount. Bobby and Kate visit her family to celebrate Independence Day together. We meet Kate’s overprotective mother Sylvia (Assumpta Serna), her ambitious younger sister Sophie (Olivia Thirlby) and her demented uncle. There are some subcutaneous tensions, and Kate has her own secret, one of which she is unsure whether she wants to tell her parents. Oh yes, our heroes also find a stray dog that they take care of. And so the day goes by. Actually nothing happens. The contrast with the story in Manhattan is so great that the film is completely out of balance. This is somewhat offset by the engaging protagonists, with whom it is easy to empathize. Stylish photography also makes ‘Uncertainty’ worthwhile.
It’s a shame writers / directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel found it necessary to split their movie in two, without doing anything worthwhile with that gimmick. Both storylines on their own had produced two better, structured films than this mishmash in which the proportions are never straightened out. Fortunately, the always excellent acting Gordon-Levitt and Collins and the stylish New York photography of Rain Li pull the film just above average.