A distant man tortured by an odd recurring dream seeks help from a bizarre psychiatrist. Chariot is a hollow and absurd exploration of the afterlife. What begins as an interesting metaphysical dilemma devolves into gimmicky theatrics that make no sense whatsoever. The film lurks around its premise like a stalking predator. Then turns into a toothless tiger when the hapless protagonist learns the bewildering truth. Chariot’s fleeting moments of dark humor don’t make up for a massively underwhelming climax; which left me confused and annoyed.
Thomas Mann stars as Harrison Hardy. He’s been tortured by the same mundane dream every night since childhood. Harry sees his mother in the kitchen. She asks him whether his father bought garlic at the store. He walks into the living room. Then notices a strange red thread leading to an attic that never belonged in his home. Harry has had this dream thousands of times. He visits an odd psychiatrist, Dr. Karn (John Malkovich), who claims to have a hypnotic solution to his recurring malaise.
Harry moves into a new building while seeing the doctor. The Lafayette is unlike any place he has ever seen or experienced. A beautiful tenant, Maria (Rosa Salazar), introduces herself in the laundry room. She immediately invites him back to her apartment. Harry is taken aback by her boldness. But they have a magnetic attraction to each other. Maria introduces him to a slew of freaky residents. Dr. Karn has a low opinion of Harry’s sudden lover. It turns out that the doctor has a different agenda. Harry is an exceptional case for the “reincarnation specialist” to solve.
Chariot in Chapters
Chariot is told in chapters. The first one takes place in the 1800s. This is the first inkling that we’re dealing with some sort of death manifestation. Harry’s introduction seemingly has no connection to the beginning. His dull dream is seen in black and white cut scenes. We get more pieces as the story progresses. Harry’s life at the Lafayette is filled with peculiar encounters. One example is a fetching redhead named Lauren (Scout Taylor-Compton). She has a split personality with a mean, older British jerk named Oliver. Lauren flips to Oliver and back like a switch. This character has an instrumental part of the third act that felt nonsensical like everything else.
Thomas Mann works as the straight man surrounded by unexplained lunacy. He simply brushes off a character that floats on air. Harry accepts that his reality is abnormal. He can’t get a decent night’s sleep and lives in a haze. What makes Harry interesting is his zest for life. He enjoys the Lafayette, loves Maria, and genuinely wants a purposeful existence. The most salient part of the film has Harry pondering the meaning of death. Director/writer Adam Sigal (Sargasso) gets lost in the inane aspects of the narrative. Harry needed a more compelling understanding of his dream.
Chariot’s head-scratching finale lands with a thud. John Malkovich ends up like a goofy clown in a bad theoretical circus. His solution for Harry’s “glitch” could have been done in their first session. Saving us all from ninety minutes of meaningless meandering.
Chariot is a production of Scarlett Pictures and Skipstone Pictures. It will have a concurrent theatrical and VOD release on April 15th from Saban Films
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