Paradox Lake (2002)

Sub-Genres - Psychological Drama  |   Run Time - 81 min.  |   Countries - Germany , Poland , United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Josh Ralske

Paradox Lake could have been a fascinating documentary, or even a compelling example of cinéma vérité about the struggles of a counselor, Matt (Matt Wolf), at a camp for autistic children, but it betrays its promise, turning into a horror film, of the relatively uneventful Blair Witch variety. Director and co-writer Przemyslaw Reut is clearly concerned with verisimilitude, as he made the film in collaboration with the employees and campers at an actual facility for the autistic. He also included clips of actual brain surgery (performed at NYU Medical Center). Much of the dialogue in the film was improvised, and as long as the film focuses on the unique behavior of the autistic kids, and the counselors' efforts to communicate with and control them, the actors do a creditable job. Matt's attempts to earn the trust of Jessica (played by an autistic girl, Jessica Fuchs), and find a way to understand her nonverbal rapport with him, are genuinely engaging and touching. Unfortunately, Reut takes the story in a more "commercial" direction, veering into horror, science fiction, and even tired clichés about how those with mental disabilities have special powers, such as the ability to predict the future. The overly dramatic music that pervades the film is a hint of what's coming. Reut shows a good deal of talent, and the film offers viewers a wonderful glimpse into the strange world of autism, but many viewers will still be surprised and disappointed by the way his unconventional premise plays out in such a stale and unconvincing way.