When we talk about genre-benders, we usually think about high concept films (or shows) with massive budgets that took the next big leap towards better practical or digital equipment. Which is a valid way of looking at things. But some of the most memorable genre-bending stories actually end up being considerably low-budget movies with a moderate scale. Relic (2020) plays out like a horror movie about a monster but it’s actually about a hereditary form of dementia. I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020) seems like a psychological thriller but it’s actually the final moments of a dying janitor (probably). Ghost Stories (2017) is an anthology horror film but it’s actually the central character conjuring stories while he’s in a vegetative state. Linoleum (2022) is also one such twisty film that keeps you guessing till the end by warping sci-fi conventions.

Written and directed by Colin West, Linoleum follows Cameron (Jim Gaffigan), an astronomer and the host of a failing science show for kids. He’s married to Erin (Rhea Seehorn). She’s an aerospace engineer and the ex-co-host of Cameron’s show. They have two kids, Nora (Katelyn Nacon) and Sam (played by multiple child actors). One day, while returning from the recording studio, Cameron witnesses a car drop from the sky in front of his house. He goes to inspect and in it he finds a man called Kent Armstrong who bears a striking resemblance to himself. Later on, he finds out that not only has Kent never been in an accident but also that he has moved across the street and is poised to take his job. Oh, and a Russian satellite lands in Cameron’s backyard and Erin is about to divorce him too.

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To be clear, all that’s an over-exaggerated front for a poignant love story. A love story between Cameron’s daughter Nora and Kent’s son Marc (Gabriel Rush). Well, it’s a little more complicated. However, since the explanation for that is very spoiler-y in nature, let’s just keep it at that. So, yes, you will find the narrative shifting from Cameron’s analysis of the crashed rocket and who Kent is and if his marriage is going to last to that of Nora and Kent’s friendship. Naturally, you’ll find yourself questioning why is that happening? But that’s where your focus should be because in it lies Linoleum’s message about the power of love. And how it can help a person liberate oneself from the confines of their oppressive household. Additionally, on a micro-level, the movie says that love is the one thing that can motivate you enough to open up and take you on a much-needed journey of self-discovery.

Linoleum (1)

All this philosophy is beautifully accentuated by Colin West’s eye for visuals. With cinematographer Ed Wu, editor Keara Burton, production designer Mollie Wartelle, sound designer Arjun Sheth, and composer Mark Hadley, West creates a borderline surrealistic landscape. “Borderline” because everything is tangible, has echoes of a certain timeline, and largely follows the laws of physics. But the color-grading, the shot choices, the non-linear cutting, and the disembodied sonic cues keep hinting at the fact that something is off. There are moments when you are placed in positions where you are observing the characters from the sky like a non-interfering viewer. Then you are thrust into an intensely subjective perspective of Nora and Marc’s escapades like it’s an 80’s romantic film. It doesn’t make sense initially. However, it’s engrossing enough to keep you invested until the final reveal. And trust me, after said reveal, you will feel hard-pressed to revisit every bit of Linoleum’s visual hints towards the bigger picture.

The cast is made of solid performers. Slight spoiler alert but Jim Gaffigan has a double role in Linoleum. As Cameron, he’s a soft-natured, loving, head-in-the-clouds kind of a person. His interactions with Katelyn Nacon are one of the best parts of the movie. The affection between them is so palpable. As Kent, he is for the lack of a better word an a-hole. Everything from his body language to his vocal inflections just screams douche-iness. And you can let your jaw drop to the floor when you witness the contrast in those two performances when Gaffigan acts opposite himself. Seehorn brings a sense of rationality to the movie’s confusing hues. She expresses Erin’s struggles. But you can also see her trying to maintain a balance between her profession, her family, and her sanity without uttering a word. Nacon and Rush are the heart of the movie and the comedic timing between them is impeccable. The supporting cast consisting of Tony Shalhoub, Roger Hendricks Simon, West Duchovny, and more chip in very smoothly.


At the cost of sounding repetitive and mildly spoiler-y, Linoleum isn’t your typical sci-fi film although it has the appearance of one. But unlike its genre-bending peers, Colin West’s offers a considerably cozy viewing experience. He takes you down the proverbial rabbit hole calmly, quietly urging you to use that brain of yours to piece together the puzzle he’s laying in front of you. And after reaching the end of the tunnel, he lands an emotional haymaker that you probably won’t see coming. Yes, those last thirty minutes are incredibly overwhelming and satisfying at the same time. The performances from Gaffigan (in a double role, mind you), Seehorn, Nacon, and the rest of the cast are spectacular. The movie looks, sounds, and moves like a million bucks. What else can you possibly ask for?

Linoleum was screened at the 2022 SXSW Film Festival

Linoleum (2022) Links – IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes
Linoleum (2022) Cast – Jim Gaffigan, Rhea Seehorn, Elliot Frances Flynn, Katelyn Nacon, Michael Ian Black, Twinkle Burke, Levi Chapin

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