IN SOME WAYS, the plot of Selfless, the new release from Portland director Jacob Pander, pales in comparison to the polished ambition of the film's crystal-clear cinematography and the dedicated performances of its cast. The premise is serviceable enough: A hotshot eco-architect, Dylan Gray (Josh Rengert), becomes the victim of identity theft at the hands of a two-dimensional villain, Wesley Stone (Matt Gallini). As his blissfully yuppified existence with his girlfriend Janine (October Moore) unravels, Gray is simultaneously caught up—in a truly weird development—with a flight attendant (Jennifer Hong) and her twin sister, a victim of human trafficking.
If that sounds a bit random, it is, although the parallel between Gray and the twin having been stripped of their identities by nefarious forces is fairly obviously drawn. The film is spotted with moments of incredulity, such as when Gray does what no one even halfway savvy with the internet would do, and types his banking information into a dodgy pop-up window. Likewise, Stone's fondness for violent videogames and thrash metal is borderline caricature.
If you can relax past the ragged ends of the script (co-written with Pander's brother, Arnold), you're still left with an enjoyable if formulaic thriller whose images are more sophisticated than the story they represent. The brothers' background in animation comes in handy during a particularly appealing near-dream sequence scene toward the film's close, but throughout, there's a penetrating sense of gray serenity in its beautiful but somber angles. The cast—an indie crew with limited credentials—pulls off some surprisingly smooth and consistent performances, bravely shouldering the script with an adaptivity that belies their relative inexperience.
With filming split between Portland and Seattle, Selfless was a production that relied heavily on local talent—you'll even recognize the voice of Storm Large doing arias on the soundtrack. While in some respects flimsy, the film is an exciting indicator that the Panders might be the next greatest thing out of Portland's movie-making scene—if, that is, they just set their sights a smidge higher next time.