Dr. Karn, an odd, eccentric physician, leads unaware patients through the reincarnation transition. When Harrison has weird reoccurring nightmares, he seeks treatment from Dr. Karn and recalls his prior life encounter with a lady he loved. When the doctor notices a problem in the system, he must resolve it before irreversibly jeopardizing his patient's future. Chariot THE MOVIE Often, the most difficult aspects of a film to nail are the ones that look intangible: mood, tempo, tone, and other aspects of the watching experience that appear to arise spontaneously but are really the result of multiple persistent decisions. Establishing and sustaining a single tone is difficult enough, but some tales try to blend — or, even more difficult, change between — two or more, and the films and directors who succeed are among the most famous in the medium. Those who attempt and fail to reach the correct balance, although less entertaining to see, are nearly as intriguing to criticize; case studies of how you wind up on the wrong side of a fine line between masterworks and misfires. One of them is Chariot, a perplexing film from writer-director Adam Sigal that seems to be unclear of its own aims. Stuck halfway between puzzle cinema and quirky comedy, between mimicking and parodying David Lynch, it entices its viewers with the promise of a riveting mystery only to leave them left in what is ultimately a failure of tone. It's worth noting that the official description for Chariot is significantly more forthcoming about the storyline than the film itself (the trailer, in an attempt to imply narrative consistency, is forced to rely on a monologue given in the last five minutes), but here goes: Dr. Karn (John Malkovich) is an enigma who specializes in leading unknowing patients through the process of rebirth. When Harrison (Thomas Mann), his new charge, finds and quickly bonds with Maria (Rosa Salazar) after experiencing a maddeningly banal repeating dream almost 5000 times without relief, the psychiatrist discovers a unique defect in the system. This lady is someone Harrison once loved, and if Dr. Karn doesn't act quickly, their encounter has the potential to irreversibly destroy his future. This synopsis, which puts Malkovich's role at the center, is fundamentally incorrect since the famed actor appears in just a few moments. With the exception of a prologue set in the 1800s (which seems to mirror the conclusion of 2001: A Space Odyssey), the film belongs to Mann's Harrison, and with him as their proxy, the viewer is kept in the dark about the reincarnation aspect until the end. His dream, a short moment from his youth notable only for adding an attic to his house when there was none before, appears as a puzzle that must be solved. Harrison settles into a dismal apartment in Lafayette after seeking out Dr. Karn to cure him of this dream, a building that, as Maria assures him, "collects odd individuals." He comes across oddities ranging from the quirky to the unbelievable. Lynch's work, notably Mulholland Dr., appears as an influence here, and, significantly, it all registers as strange to Harrison as well. Something is going on, and Chariot seems to want its viewers to be involved in solving the mystery. However, there are vast parts where Sigal seemed uninterested in offering any solutions. Within the film, Maria is the voice of this desire, portraying the weirdness as a sort of Lafayette normality and pushing Harrison to embrace it, which he mostly does. Their moments together have a looseness to them that seems like an offbeat romance, but the framing device piled on top makes it difficult to appreciate them for what they are, as the audience continues to examine each moment for clues. Chariot seems to be a satire of art films like Mulholland Dr. and 2001, which depend on abstraction to find meaning, but increasingly dark twists in the third act indicate the picture is devoted to its tale. Even in the midst of this late stress, certain moments are so absurd that they cannot be taken seriously. The back-and-forth is aggravating, especially given the ending, which leaves many of the viewer's questions unresolved. Thomas Mann and Rosa Salazar in Chariot 2 Because tone is the result of a confluence of creative decisions, the audience's ambiguity about how to feel at any particular time has several sources, but the screenplay is the most to blame. In addition to collapsing at the smallest inquiry of how this universe is meant to operate, the film frequently presents Dr. Karn as having evil intent, raising expectations that (based on the premise) it never intended to deliver on. Finally, the moments that do appear in Chariot are insufficient to overcome the emotions of perplexity and annoyance that its viewers are left with, and it's difficult to argue that any satisfaction gained from dissecting it was worth the experience of seeing it in the first place. Chariot will be available on-demand, digitally, and in cinemas on Friday, April 15. The film runs for 90 minutes and is classified R for profanity, some sexual content, and drug use.