At first glance and throughout the car crash scenes and where Danny Glover saves Natasha Calis from a tool falling off a scaffold, Donovan's Echo seems to be shaping up to be another clairvoyance thriller. We have had a good many of these over the last few years see the likes of The Eyes of Charles Sand (1972), Visions (1972), Baffled (1973), Eyes of Laura Mars (1978), Double Exposure (1981), Fear (1990), Murderous Vision (1991), Dead On Sight (1994), Sensation (1994), Hideaway (1995), A Deadly Vision (1997), After Alice (1999), In Dreams (1999), The Gift (2000), Murder Scene (2000), Troubled Waters (2006), Empathy (2007), The Cell 2 (2009), Let Me Die Quietly (2009) and In/Sight (2011). These are largely disappointing in that they have reduced exploring the conceptual possibilities inherent in clairvoyant visions and predicting the future to routine detective stories about tracking killers or missing people. With its set-up and tv-styled direction, Donovans Echo gives the impression of being no different to these others.
As it transpires, this is not quite the case. As becomes apparent, Donovan's Echo is a film more about predestination and events from the past repeating themselves. Director/co-writer Jim Cliffe says he based these on an experience of deja vu in his own life. In truth though, his source for the film appears to be Nicolas Roegs Dont Look Now (1973). Just like Dont Look Now, Donovan's Echo is about visual clues from one event in the past in both films it is the traumatic death of the protagonists daughter (and here his wife as well) echoing in terms of leaked clues of events about to happen in the future.
Both films become akin to a tapestry that exists on a level of symbolism where aspects from one event keep visually mapping themselves out in another. Here the Ouroboros key that Danny Glover finds is reflected in the cover of the book that Sonja Bennett gives him; the odd cross shape he draws in his physics notes leads to the garage where the climactic events take place; the ad for a dinosaur exhibit is near-identical to the one where Natasha Calis wins a science prize to go to; strings of numbers prove significant; people in the present have the same names as those in the past and so on. This game of overlapping symbolism proves interesting in both of these works, it is about turning the film into a mandala of multiple connection points. Donovan's Echo is ultimately far more prosaic about these than Dont Look Now was. It is Dont Look Now, which was in truth an arthouse film, played out down around the level of a tv movie thriller where the overlapping clues are spelled out in ways that are pedestrian and obvious. Eventually this makes Donovan's Echo still the same type of mundane detective story about the solving of a mystery that the abovementioned clairvoyance thrillers are. Not that it fails to take an interestingly different way of getting there.
Among the cast, Danny Glover does well as Donovan. Glover has been showing his age in the last few years but succeeds in making his bug-eyed crazy thing work well for the role. The other headline name that the film brings in is that of Bruce Greenwood in a nothing much role as Danny Glovers best friend. Natasha Calis shows much promise as the young girl that Danny Glover befriends.
(Screening at the Vancouver International Film Festival)