Disconnect (2013)

Rated R. Our ratings: V -3; L -5; S/N -3. Running time: 1 hour 55 min.

So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over
the face of all the earth, and they left off building the
city. Therefore it was called Babel, because there the
Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from
there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of
all the earth.
Genesis 11:8-9

For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, 8but no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters,* this ought not to be so.
James 3:7-10

The Boyd family will be tragically affected by the
misuse of social media.

2013 LD Entertainment

What an appropriate title for director Henry Alex Rubin’s film about a group of people connected by the digital gadgetry of our Internet Age, and yet in this view of the dark side of the Internet a connection that too often leads to tragic disconnection. There is Nina (Andrea Riseborough), a TV reporter who, while searching the Internet, comes across Kyle (Max Thieriot), a barely of age charmer who earns his living talking sex with those willing to pay. Her involvement leads to the FBI entering the case, threatening her career and ruining Kyle’s relationship with the thugs who employ him.

Rich Boyd (Jason Bateman) is the lawyer at the station where Nina works. He cannot give his full attention to his family even during the family dinner because he is always checking or texting on his cell phone. His 15-year-old son Ben (Jonah Bobo), also texting at the dinner table, creates music but has no friends at school. During their supper when wife and mother Lydia (Hope Davis) learns that Ben is texting a girl, she actually encourages him to continue.

However, unknown to Ben, the “girl” is not real, but a creation of his classmates Jason (Colin Ford) and Frye (Aviad Bernstein). They have decided to humiliate him by creating a girl who contacts Ben via the Internet. Claiming to love his music, “she” convinces him to send her a nude photo of himself, which the schemers then share with everyone at school. Ben feels so humiliated that he tries to hang himself. He is found before he expires, but is kept in the hospital’s intensive care unit because of his coma. Rich vows to track down those who had humiliated his son.

Cyber bully Jason’s father Mike (Frank Grillo), a widowed ex-cop, loves his son, but often neglects him because of his work of tracking down cyber criminals. Currently he is working with Derek (Alexander Skarsgard) and his wife Cindy (Paula Patton) to discover who has used their IDs to steal their bank account and run up bills that destroy their financial reputation. An ex-Marine, Derek when given the name of a possible suspect, decides to confront the man in person. But is this the right person?

This ensemble cast film is a fascinating look at the darker side of our electronically connected world, one that suggests that, despite our enormous progress in science-based technology, we are still morally at the point of the scattering of the peoples in the Tower of Babel myth. How ironic that as we connect with others via our gadgets, we also disconnect from those with whom we are physically present!

For Reflection/Discussion

1. How are both father and son Rich and Ben misusing technology at the dinner table? Have you found yourself disconnected from a friend or colleague by their taking a cell phone call or sending out a text message while engaged in a meal or conversation with you? What might you do in response? How often have you stood in line at a store and watched someone talking on their cell phones while handing their money over to the cashier? What does this say about that person’s regard for those who serve him/her?

2. How is what Rich and Lydia discover about Ben when they examine his computer all too typical, that teenagers can create a secret persona and alternate life on the Internet? If you are a parent, how are you dealing with your children’s use of the computer and the Internet?

3. How do the social media multiply for Jason and his friend the destructive power of the tongue? How are schools in your community dealing with students’ use of cell phones or pads during class time?

4. How can we deal with cyber bullying? What does all this suggest about our relationships with our children, especially for parents of teenagers so busy trying to make a living and pursue their own adult social life?

5. What mistakes has Derek made that leave him open for exploitation by cyber criminals? What measures do you follow to protect yourself from identity theft?

6. Do any of the characters seem to have a faith perspective, or is this another tale about totally secularized people? Where do you see God in any of the stories—or do you?