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Rick McGrath [Celluloid 07.09.09] movie review drama



Year: 2008
Directors: Froukje Tan
Writers: Froukje Tan
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Dr. Nathan
Rating: 7.5 out of 10

It’s not often you come across a story about neurological disorders that treats the condition in a warm and often-funny way, but welcome to Links, a disarmingly charming tale of mouse-loving Dexter de Man, who can neither see left nor distinguish certain people from each other.


Links starts the way Dr Nathan likes movies to start – no backstory, no clumsy foreshadowing, no hints at all – just a quick cut-in on Dexter, who is indeed a dexterous circuit board maker for an electronics company called LinX. Dexter has pet mice and a girlfriend named Stella. The basically blind mice live in a fancy cage with a wheel and lots of food, and by and large they represent the link between Dexter and his world, filled as it is with similar cages – his work space, his apartment, his car, the hospital – and an insatiable appetite for food, which defines and controls Dexter’s existence.

The fun starts when Dexter is introduced to a new worker at LinX – a girl who looks exactly like his on and off again girlfriend, Stella. At first you think Stella must have a twin, but no, she’s not related. His fascination with a different personality in the same body deepens to the point where the original Stella – a pushy girl who ultimately loses Dexter’s mice when she attempts to clean the cage – decides to leave for awhile after learning of Dexter’s other problems: he’s piled up a number of traffic offenses and is in trouble for not paying his fines.

Our anal-retentive hero (almost everything in his house is carefully preserved and arranged in little plastic boxes, as is his electronics bench at work) has also been told to take a week off from work, and the plot thickens when he’s pulled over and arrested for whacking other cars as he’s driving. Send to a clinic to discover whether he’s doing this maliciously or unknowingly, we discover Dexter has had a stroke, and the resulting brain damage means he can’t distinguish people or see anything to his left. As we see what Dexter does or doesn’t see, most of the characters get to be played by the same actor, as the boss, a doctor and his father all look the same, as do all the police, and, of course, the women. Oddly undaunted by all this, Dexter is placed on a brain retraining program, and in the hospital he meets the Stella he likes the best – a distraught and uncommunicative woman he attempts to nurture back to sanity. Retrained to “see” properly (it involves circling an object so he can see all with his good right eye), Dexter returns to work but appears to find it unfulfilling. He goes home, prepares a smorgasbord of bits of different foods and tastes, and returns to the hospital where he again attempts to bring the girl out of her mental seclusion by feeding her as he would his mice. She seems to respond, and the movie ends as it begins, with a closeup of two mice running in their little wheel.

Not really much of a plot, granted, and there’s nothing really scary or shocking about anything in the story, save the obsessive compartmentalization and the subtext of “clean rooms” and spotless, tidy environments. What makes this movie interesting is the implacable Dexter (artfully underplayed by Jeroen van Koningsbrugge) and his relationships with the three Stellas (played by the lovely Lotte Verbeek). Ably directed by Froukje Tan, who also wrote the screenplay, Links is also helped immeasurably by the delicate cinematography of Harm Griekspoor, and Karjin van Brink’s tasteful art direction. If I was to criticize any part of Links, I’d say it deserves a 7.5 because of Tan’s slight proclivity to spend a tad too much time at the beginning simply following Dexter as he completes his daily rituals. It’s really only when we discover his vision problems that we realize why Dexter never turns left when he walks or drives. Altho the art direction is cool – all symmetries and the moving Dexter.

As for the title – yes, there are many links in our lives that we take for granted until something (a stroke, perhaps?) changes our perceptions and reveals the hidden connections. Father, doctor, boss – all could be the same if they didn’t look different. Tell me, though – what about mice and men?

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projectcyclops (11 years ago) Reply

Great review, thanks Dr. Nathan.


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