Alex is a young man working as a cargo thief for the cartel. Sam is a young woman who works as a paramedic. They each keep to themselves and only have their televisions to keep them company. Suddenly, Sam and Alex find themselves being able to communicate to each other through their TV -- each other thinking the other person is only an actor from their favorite TV shows. With their separate worlds now intersecting, Sam and Alex both must find out what this means before their own realities are torn apart.
NOTE: Once again I feel as though I must give a spoiler warning. Since Jamin Winans and his team have done an excellent job of keeping the details on "The Frame" minimal, I will say that this review could possibly ruin that unknown viewing experience. I do give away plot points since it was inevitable when discussing the movie, so there are spoilers in the review as well. Read at your own risk.
In 2009, Jamin Winans released his second feature film, "Ink", and by chance, it became one of the most downloaded movies that year. Of course me being me, I was completely oblivious to "Ink" and its pirating popularity until Ronny had reviewed the movie (a legal copy, by the way). Based on his review and personal recommendation, I checked the movie out and, like many other people, I absolutely loved "Ink". It was an ambitious and unique movie at the time of its release. Fast forward to 2014 and Jamin Winans has released his third feature, "The Frame".
Alex is a young man who works as a cargo thief for the cartel. He's biding his time until he can escape by keeping to himself in his run down apartment, where he only has a TV show about female paramedic named Sam to keep him company. Sam is a young female paramedic who saves lives in order to avoid her own life and her down time, she watches her favorite show about a cargo thief named Alexl. Somehow the worlds of these two people intersect and now find themselves able to communicate to one another through the television. Not only must Alex and Sam work together to understand what it all means, but Sam must help Alex to keep his world from disappearing while a group of strange people try to prevent her from interfering with fate.
Ultimately, the question everyone will have going into "The Frame" will be, "Will it be as good as 'Ink'?" I know I was asking myself that question too but thankfully Jamin and those involved have kept a tight lid on exactly what "The Frame" was and what the movie looked liked, outside a few images and a nondescript teaser trailer. It helped to keep expectations to a minimum, I think, and allowed me to view "The Frame" for what it is instead of spending my time comparing it to "Ink". Although I do make comparisons in the review since I do think it is important in regards to the discussion.
Some elements do carry over from "Ink" and that might be an issue for some but I think those things that do carry over, show Jamin Winans' ability and competency as a filmmaker. Most notably, "The Frame" tackles the theme of fate and destiny inside a metaphysical theme. Though the story is made more interesting by the fact it's hard to perceive which world is the actual reality. Is Alex's world real or is it Sam's? Perhaps neither. It's an idea that helps keep the movie engaging since "The Frame" is a slower film -- in comparison to "Ink" -- that focuses on the building relationship between Sam and Alex. There are some action and some fantasy/science fiction-ish sequences in the movie, but it is predominantly a character piece. Not only is about the relationship between Sam and Alex but how their parallel worlds intersecting force them both to confront their own lives.
Eventually a more definitive answer is given as to which world is real when Alex's world is being dictated by an unknown presence writing out his life as if it were a script. It causes those metaphysic concepts to come into play in a big way and presents an interesting philosophy that I think many of us have thought about with our own lives. Do we exist as nothing more than a form of fiction for someone else's entertainment? If so, what happens when we are no longer needed? Or in the case of "The Frame", what do we do when our life is no longer being written for us? This idea allows the movie to go one step further where the movie itself becomes a character. Similar to what was done in the horror film "Resolution", except with "The Frame", it relates more to how our choices in life determine our fate.
Concepts aside, "The Frame" is as good as "Ink" was from a production standpoint. It is interesting since "Ink" was a rather big movie; it was very ambitious, to say the least. "The Frame" is a movie with big ideas but scaled to fit within a smaller movie and it works well. Like I said before, it is a character piece so the movie boils down to the performances and the story. The story is excellent, obviously, because it has those big ideas and concepts but it never causes the movie to lose track of its intended purpose. And once again, we are given some fresh faces in the form of David Carranza and Tiffany Mualem who give some stellar performances that helps make the movie function as well as it does being centered on their characters.
So is "The Frame" as good as "Ink"? I don't know. I find it difficult to give an answer because it is easy to be biased because "Ink" made such an impact. It's also something that will be up to the individual viewer, but what I can say with confidence is that "The Frame" shows that "Ink" was no fluke and Jamin Winans has a unique voice within the independent filmmaking world.
I think people will be satisfied with "The Frame" at the very least because the key components that made "Ink" a successful movie were brought over into the new movie, but avoided making it feel like a rehash. It has a great story with some interesting themes and concepts, one of which that I thought was especially interesting was making the movie into it's own character. There's something to be said with that idea as it also shows how powerful the connection can be between the audience and the movie, but that's something more for the film theorists out there. For the rest of us, it's a successfully character driven movie with a good story and interesting ideas.