The 4th Dimension

In “The 4th Dimension,” Jack (Louis Morabito) is a daydreaming antiques repairman who fixes old jewelry boxes and such-like for a German shopowner. But Jack (Miles Williams) is also a little boy in the third grade who has an outrageously precocious knowledge of Einsteinian theory and a sick mom.

It doesn’t take much to gather that antiques-repairman Jack is the grown-up version of precocious Jack, but this enigmatic black-and-white non-linear story has further details that suggest all is not as it seems. Is that a one-room schoolhouse little Jack attends? What year is this? Who is the sultry woman who keeps asking adult Jack to fix a clock — and who’s the old lady who orders him not to?

Both Jacks are germphobic and display obsessive-compulsive tendencies. There is talk of parallel timelines and alternate realities. Adult Jack’s daydreaming begins to take over his life, to the point where he (and we) can’t distinguish between fact and imagination.

It’s an elegiac, even hypnotic film (written and directed by the team of Tom Mattera and David Mazzoni), but it turns out to have a disappointingly ordinary “what is real?” conceit that has been done to death, particularly among independent films. It has admirable qualities, though, such as the impressive opening Steadicam shot that takes us through Jack’s house, and an unedited moment where young Jack recites an amazingly complicated speech about Einstein’s theories in one take — meaning the child actor, Miles Williams, learned the whole thing (and what’s more, delivered it like he actually understood it).

But little perks aside, it is a film whose concept is too often done, and usually only about as well as it’s done here.

C+ (1 hr., 21 min.; Not Rated, probably PG for mild thematic elements.)