Ever wonder if your life sucks because someone has writer's block? In a triptych of interrelated narratives, Zoom interlaces the stories of three artists and their inconsistently successful creative outlets: budding novelist Michelle (Mariana Ximenes); Emma, a comic artist who paints sex dolls for a living (Alison Pill); and a film director named Edward (Gael García Bernal) who's represented entirely in rotoscoped animation. They're not simply co-existing storylines, though: Each protagonist is penning the story of the next.
Michelle's first draft of a novel describes Emma dipping her toes into the high-gloss worlds of sex, drugs and plastic surgery; Emma takes out her frustrations on Edward, a character in the comic she's drawing. Meanwhile, Edward's film is plagued by a meddling producer, which affects Michelle's story -- which he's filming. Matt Hansen's screenplay lets its characters' artistic whims shape the action; in one sequence, Michelle trots Emma through several alternate scenarios, and Emma goes so far as to remove Edward's penis out of spite. Director Pedro Morelli's neon-and-grime aesthetic and a solid cast of mostly Canadian character actors (including a campy, animated Don McKellar and a creepy Michael Eklund) are the grounding factors. When everyone eventually becomes aware of how they're manipulating one another's lives, the results are more chaotic than meaningful.
So who's really pulling the strings? Nobody, it seems -- the characters emerge through disorganized happenstance, but come across more as inventions than people. As Hansen and Morelli drive home in the final moments, they're only real when there's an audience.