The first few moments of The Shift, a new dystopian thriller from first-time director Brock Heasley and produced by Angel Studios, look a lot like many dystopian films. Opening on an empty, but lush landscape surrounded by a serene lake the audience is taken to a quiet place undisturbed by humanity. For a moment, it’s peaceful and totally unencumbered. And then, a man appears as quickly as a blip as if through a portal.
“This is not my world, but I will find my way home,” says Kevin Garner, a man on a journey, just before disappearing again.
The Shift is based on the Bible’s Book of Job. Although it makes no difference for those unfamiliar with the story, the Book of Job tells the story of a man of incredible faith and prosperity who becomes routinely tested by Satan. Facing the unfathomable loss of his possessions, family, and health, Job’s faith never wavers—he refuses to reject God as does Kevin Garner.
Early in the film, we learn about Kevin’s struggle — he’s recently lost a lucrative position at Bear Stearns which has caused him to struggle with his sobriety. While debating whether or not to drink again, he meets the woman who will become his wife and they quickly begin a life together, marrying and even having a child. However, their happiness and union will be short-lived and both will question whether or not they can weather a storm together or if this hardship will be what drives them apart.
Soon after, Kevin will have a surprise encounter with a man simply known as The Benefactor who will offer him wealth and power if he gives up his fight for reconciliation with his wife and the world he comes from. Kevin refuses and becomes a folk hero known as “The Kevin Who Refused.” In the dystopian alternate reality, the population lives in emotional, spiritual, and physical poverty. With nothing to live for, they rely on viewing theaters where they pay to watch their doppelgangers in other dimensions live alternate lives. Even while living in this altered state, Kevin refuses to give in to the temptation surrounding him.
One day, The Benefactor returns and makes him a final offer and Kevin must confront his past, present, and future all at once. In the end, the choice he makes is the one that will keep him most tethered to his humanity and in that choice, he can redeem himself and restore his faith.
The film’s plot is pushed forward by a sense of urgency on behalf of Kevin, played by Kristoffer Polaha. Even though the story is told in half flashback and half realtime, it’s easy to follow and the redemptive arc feels rightly earned in the end.
While on the surface, The Shift is a dystopian sci-fi thriller, it is also a multifaceted love story. The Kevin Who Refused” is a stand-in for all humanity. The film suggests that in the end, regardless of struggle or status, each of us is trying to find our way back to return to a life better than we could ever imagine.