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Paralysis (2022)

Haley (Allison Lobel) is struggling mentally and emotionally after she’s suffered some family trauma. She’s shut everyone else out with the exception of her brother Nicky (Levi Austin Morris). As she navigates her reality, faced with all the hardships that have befallen her, she finds herself in a difficult position–one that nearly causes Paralysis. Haley must find a way out, but that seems to be less and less of a possibility as time goes on.


The first thing I noticed about Paralysis was the fact that nearly every single shot is intimate. Nearly every second of the film is up close and personal, in a position where viewers are able to analyze the intricacies of both Haley and Nicky’s faces–and that invites them into the narrative. The series of choices made regarding the cinematography not only work to pull viewers into the film, but it also creates this sense of claustrophobia–something that seems to parallel the way in which Haley would feel throughout the course of the film. The cinematography creates a sense of urgency and stress throughout Paralysis, and creates a deafening tone–one that transcends the film in the best possible way.

On occasion viewers see slightly longer shots, setting up the scenes in which Haley often exists by herself. In these moments viewers see, often behind Haley, shadows of trees, and they help to strengthen the intensity of the film. The waving branches often look like arms, simulating that someone is watching, someone that shouldn’t be. I can’t be sure whether this was a conscious decision or not–but the fact of the matter is that this works wonders for Paralysis. Through everything that happens in Paralysis, it’s these moments that worked best to develop the story, tone, mood, and just about everything in between.


A series of jump cuts take place throughout the course of Paralysis, and that’s an interesting editing choice. It doesn’t appear to speed things up or to strengthen the story in any way, but rather it works to fracture the narrative. That actually helps to drive the film forward, however–and it plays a pivotal role in how viewers receive the information being presented by Morris (also the writer, director, editor, and director of photography). The fractured nature of some of these scenes represent the fractured psyche of Haley, making her more relevant, more accessible.


If I’m being honest, the story isn’t attractive to me (and that’s okay). But it’s also not the story that draws attention–it’s the stylistic and artistic choices made by Morris and his team throughout that reach viewers. The intimate close ups, the harrowing details that exist in the background, and the connection that Morris makes to mental health kept me focused throughout Paralysis. His understanding of cinema and how to reach viewers through this art form is what makes the film successful. There are pieces of the narrative that work in terms of its ability to simply tell a story, but that’s not what drew me to Paralysis.


Paralysis is a project focused heavily on mental health, with pieces of the occult and paranormal strewn throughout. I believe, in terms of the story, this film takes a certain type of viewer to appreciate it. The parts about mental health, and from the viewpoint of a cinephile (one who’s willing to take the time to analyze the hard work put into a film), Paralysis is brilliant in more ways than one. Understand, before going in, that Paralysis is less about the story itself and much more about how this project came to be. That process is beautiful, and I’m impressed with the clear passion and precision that exists throughout.


Written & Directed by Levi Austin Morris.


Starring Allison Lobel, Levi Austin Morris, Lisagaye Tomlinson, Bethany Koulias, Emerson Gregori, etc.


⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐½/10




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