Review: Short on suspense, ‘Ultrasound’ still captures fuzziness of contemporary memory

A man with a beard looks up
Vincent Kartheiser in “Ultrasound.”
(Magnet Releasing)

In the opening sequence of the psychodrama “Ultrasound,” a sad sack named Glen (Vincent Kartheiser) has car trouble and seeks refuge in the home of a friendly couple: the goofy schlub Arthur (Bob Stephenson) and his much younger wife, Cyndi (Chelsea Lopez). After some drinks and chit-chat, Arthur makes Glen a generous offer, saying his guest should sleep in the master bedroom … with Cyndi.

Most of the rest of the movie revolves around what really happened in the bedroom that night. Not long after the opening, we see Glen and Cyndi in a mysterious research facility, some months later — with him now paralyzed in a wheelchair and her heavily pregnant — as a team of scientists probes their fuzzy memories and reads them transcripts of past conversations. It’s all very spooky.

The film is based on cartoonist Conor Stechschulte’s graphic novel “Generous Bosom” (a title ultimately less apt than “Ultrasound,” though certainly more memorable). Rob Schroeder directs Stechschulte’s own screenplay and ends up with something a little like one of Charlie Kaufman’s or David Lynch’s cinematic mind games, but played straighter.


The movie follows three main storylines, not entirely in parallel. As Glen and Cyndi are being questioned by an increasingly confused and wary researcher named Shannon (Breeda Wool), the movie flashes back to the aftermath of the pair’s first meeting, showing how their lives keep intertwining. Meanwhile, in a tangentially related subplot, another pregnant young woman, Katie (Rainey Qualley), is being hidden from the press by her married politician lover, Alex (Christopher Gartin), with the help of Arthur — who, it turns out, isn’t who he seemed to be.

Schroeder and Stechschulte don’t leave the audience hanging with “Ultrasound.” By the closing credits, we do learn why the characters seem so out of sync with their own reality. Without giving too much away, the movie’s title does matter, referring to a frequency that can be weaponized to manipulate people’s minds. (Zak Engel’s synth-heavy score works well with Bobb Barito’s disorienting sound design to replicate the effect.)

The film’s overall tone is a bit dry, and the narrative lacks tension, aside from its central mystery. But the performances are strong, and the points the filmmakers are making about the slipperiness of memory do resonate. “Ultrasound” is a movie made for the age of “fake news” and media bubbles, where no truths are ever self-evident and what people perceive about the world keeps changing, depending on their filters.


Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 43 minutes

Playing: Starts March 11, Laemmle Glendale; also on VOD