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Review: Viral phenomenon ‘The Mandela Effect’ makes for a fairly mediocre thriller

A scene from “Mandela Effect.”
A scene from “The Mandela Effect.”
( Fly Guy Aviation )

A few years back, director David Guy Levy and screenwriter Steffen Schlachtenhaufen teamed up for “Would You Rather,” a cleverly disgusting and surprisingly deep adaptation of the well-known ice-breaking party game. Now the duo take a similarly smart approach to a viral phenomenon in “The Mandela Effect,” a science-fiction drama inspired by the unsettlingly common situation wherein large numbers of people misremember something from pop culture.

In the film, Charlie Hofheimer plays Brendan, a game designer whose young daughter accidentally drowns. Over the objections of his wife, Claire (Aleksa Palladino), and his best friend, Matt (Robin Lord Taylor), Charlie seeks out a disgraced academic (Clarke Peters) who believes that if thousands are adamantly certain about — for example — an incorrect spelling of “the Berenstain Bears,” this may be evidence of alternate realities.

As with “Would You Rather,” “The Mandela Effect” runs out of steam towards the end, as the hero tries to turn theory into proof, in hopes of recoding his world into one where his daughter lives. But for the most part this movie is a tightly constructed and sensitively rendered conversation-starter, comparing grief and loss to the sensation of faulty memories. It takes a strange and fascinating meme, and makes it personal.

“The Mandela Effect”
Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Playing: Arena Cinelounge, Hollywood; also available on VOD

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