Well, this is certainly random. But the last two movies I’ve seen: Duncan Jones’ SOURCE CODE and Abbas Kiarostami’s CERTIFIED COPY have more in common than at first meets the eye. Maybe in reality this correlation should only speak to my slightly diverse movie-going habits – big budget to small budget, American thriller to Iranian-directed drama – and the human need to draw lines between things. Nonetheless, back to back, both of these films engage with the notion that a copy or version of the self, if sent forward into the world or a parallel world, will behave differently and respond to different stimuli than would original ‘self’ (see how I’m getting all meta here with the single quotation marks?), and thus render strikingly different results for one’s life path. Characters from both films accomplish this. Cool, right?

Not that Jake Gyllenhaal and Juliette Binoche are going to get together soon for ontological conversation (or maybe they will!). They are very different protagonists. Gyllenhaal plays a Captain in the U.S. Air Force who has essentially died in Afghanistan; the sudden subject of a brain experiment in which he is able to occupy another identity – he is himself but not himself – on a train outside of Chicago that is hurdling toward terrorist doom. Binoche plays an unnamed French woman living in Italy, a shop owner who engages the attentions of a handsome author, then experiments with ‘playing’ his wife. She is herself and not herself.

What does each of these dramatic scenarios render, ultimately? It’s about what you might imagine, given the genres and the filmmakers. Jones and Hollywood give us thrills, theme, the discovery of what is true and important in life. Kiarostami and Iran/France give us ambiguity, long conversations, and no answers on what is ‘real.’ (Not that I don’t have questions about SOURCE CODE. I’m still slightly confused.) The problem, however? CERTIFIED COPY gives itself away in every piece of marketing. I knew going in that the essential trick of the movie is determining if one thinks this couple is ‘playing,’ or are really married. This information essentially ruined any sense of discovery for me – whereas SOURCE CODE actually contains a few surprises that are actually totally unexpected. Who knew, genre to genre?

Trailers here: