William Blakely (Conal Byrne) is a laboratory scientist whose head is full of his job — a distraction that leads to tragedy. Years later, he wakes up with his head empty, emerging from a coma with complete amnesia in the care of his twin brother (also played by Byrne). William has to relearn everything, from how to eat cereal to understanding a knock-knock joke, and as he is reintroduced to his own personal history, he becomes fascinated by his estranged wife Jules (Amy Seimetz). But there comes a time when he must be told about the more unpleasant portions of his past, and this knowledge jumpstarts his and the audience’s dawning discovery that neither William nor his brother may be exactly who they first appear to be.
A cinematic jigsaw puzzle in which it’s not immediately clear how many pieces there are, THE RECONSTRUCTION OF WILLIAM ZERO is the solo directorial debut of Dan Bush, part of the triumvirate behind the 2007 festival breakout THE SIGNAL. For his second excursion into the darker side of science fiction, Bush brought along SIGNAL’s AJ Bowen and Scott Poythress for supporting roles, along with indie darling and frequent Bowen co-star Seimetz (YOU’RE NEXT, THE SACRAMENT), who delivers an emotionally stirring turn as Jules, struggles with her lingering affections for the husband who abandoned her and has now lost his sense of self. But the movie is owned by Byrne, who also co-wrote the script with Bush and makes the undoubtedly challenging job of acting opposite himself look effortless, finding subtle shadings to make each of his roles distinctive.
Working with an emotionally complex palette, Bush deals with questions of identity and individual/moral choice within the framework of a twisty genre piece. And it is indeed a thriller as well as an investigation into character, building tension as the unveiling of personal secrets leads to violence on the part of those trying to protect them. Shot on wintry Georgia locations whose snowy veneer accentuates the drama’s underlying chill, THE RECONSTRUCTION OF WILLIAM ZERO ultimately reveals itself as a successful application of up-to-date science to one of fantastic cinema’s most time-honoured storylines.
— Michael Gingold