Bad-boy runaway Ronan Carver gets a cryptic phone call from his father, telling him to come home. There he finds his sister, his father's go-bag, and a strange device wrapped in a newspaper declaring President Clinton has been assassinated. He and Beatrix (plus their tagalong neighbor, Harold) follow the message to an abandoned building. Inside the graffitied walls are covered in deranged messages ranging from warnings that "contagion has spread to Earth 33" or that the "natives are friendly, no weapons on Earth 168."
They soon discover that the derelict building is actually a parallel-worlds machine that transports them into a random alternate Earth. The enigmatic Polly finds them and gives them some exposition into how travellers like themselves comport themselves in strange worlds that range from the postapocalyptic to the eerily advanced. Along the way they're kidnapped by wasteland scavengers, dodge nuclear blasts by fleeing to parallel worlds, and commit identity theft against alternate versions of themselves to survive. All the while Ronan and Beatrix continue to seek their father.
Parallels was released on Netflix in March of 2015, and its success has led to the greenlighting of a series based on the premise entitled "The Building"; Neil Gaiman is involved in a creative capacity.
Tropes in this film
- Alternate History: Polly points out that when the world is nuked, it tends to be from a 1970s or 1980s nuclear exchange. However one time Egypt set it off.Polly: That was a weird Earth.
- Big Dumb Object: The building looks innocuous, but shifts from world to world.
- Contrived Coincidence: On the first jump, the characters run into some Red Shirts who are gunned down fairly quickly.
- Cool Guns: One with an iris that adapts to any bullet you put in it.
- Daddy Had a Good Reason for Abandoning You: Alex insists his prolonged absences and cryptic instructions were for the good of his children, in an attempt to Give Them A Normal Life. Subverted in part by the fact that alternate versions of them have clearly fared better — not that they could have known it at the time, of course.
- Foreign Queasine: A "crombie" — some sort of food with crab claws sticking out of it.
- Foreshadowing: Polly walks into the room after the nuclear blast, instead of being on the floor with the rest of them. Then she doesn't recognize the TV show Ronan mentions that she should.
- Fish out of Temporal Water: On the tech world they visit.
- Made of Indestructium: If Tinker's story is to be believed, the nuclear bomb was set off right across the street from the building, yet the building was unhurt.
- Malicious Misnaming: inverted, as Harold would desperately prefer to be called Harry, which Ronan has no interest in respecting.
- The Multiverse: the setting of the film is revealed to be a small set of hundreds (or thousands) of alternative histories of Earth. Most of which didn't turn out too well, since Alex and his wife decided that "our" Earth was a safe place to raise their kids.
- Meaningful Name: Polly. There's more than one of her.
- Nuclear Option: Apparently this is how alternate versions of Earth take out each other's trash. Not surprising, since you have to haul things across alternate Earths yourself, and nukes give you the biggest bang you can drag out of The Building.
- Pilot Movie: Originally set up as a TV movie pilot, it was released as a stand-alone movie with the possibility of being a series.
- Police are Useless: When Ronan and Beatrix try to report their father missing, they are given the old "has to be missing for 24 hours" line, which isn't true in Real Life.
- Race Against the Clock: The Building jumps every 36 hours, and Polly insists quite seriously that one doesn't want to get left behind. Especially if someone is attempting to nuke The Building as you're leaving. However, some hilarity ensues when Polly reveals that it's sort of "approximately" 36 hours.
- Riding into the Sunset: The group sees a bright light outside at the end and go out the door to see what it is at the end of the movie.
- The Social Expert: Polly naturally takes the lead when the others screw up some part of the deft dance of impersonating themselves in an alternate universe, going so far as to insist that Ronan's a mute because of some childhood disease. This is unsurprising, since she apparently travels with The Building for a living.
- That Liar Lies: Stated by Tinker when he returns from upstairs and gets shot.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Beatrix's sudden willingness to point a loaded gun at the Tinker obviously alarms even Ronan, but it apparently runs in the family: Alex not only nuked the Tinker's version the city, but cooly borrowed the aforementioned gun to shoot the Tinker dead without so much as a by-your-leave.
- When You Coming Home, Dad?: Alex wasn't around for most of his children's childhoods.
- Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Ronan starts the film off in Akron, Ohio. He's told to come "home", and the film was shot in Terrytown, Louisiana. The specific city the building is located in is never named.