Writer-director Noah Hutton's new science-fiction myth film Lapsis, screening during the Nightstream Festival this weekend, introduces an ace allegory to set this feeling against -- in a world just a smidge in the future we meet Ray (Dean Imperial), a Gandolfini-adjacent middle-aged spread of a man who needs to scam up some money quick to help out his sick little brother. Even though he's a practicing Luddite he hears some get-rich-quick promises attached to the new techno-gig called "cabling," which has real live people literally dragging next-gen communication cables through the woods, from one gigantic magnetic cube to another miles away. Set up like an interactive game, a sort of Pokemon Godot, the longer course you chart with your wire through nowhere the more cash you make. There are even officious little robots you're expected to chase and compete with. It's an adventure!
That's the first half of Lapsis and the first half of Lapsis is very good, and very smart. The character of Ray turns out to be kinder and more complicated than he seems at first glance, and for that I was glad -- he easily could've slid into caricature but Imperial keeps him grounded and funny, even as the world exposing its insanity. Sadly the film's second half starts throwing too much at itself to see what will stick -- the workers are revolutionizing, there are hidden codes in kiddie videos and surprise daughter reveals; it's too much and the beautiful simplicity of its early ideas get lost among the last act chaos. I'd almost tuned out entirely by the time self-help tea ingredients were being hijacked. But before the machinery clunks and coughs and sputters out Lapsis hums, it hums real well.