From Talkies to Texties

In a fraught scene in “Disconnect,” a lawyer played by Jason Bateman discovers that his son’s girlfriend doesn’t actually exist. The conversation between Mr. Bateman’s character and the fabricated online persona “Jessica” plays out entirely via text. An interface designed to resemble Facebook’s chat function appears next to an extreme close-up on Mr. Bateman’s increasingly teary eyes.

Director Henry-Alex Rubin recalls Mr. Bateman half-jokingly remarking that he was making a silent movie. “There was a lot of having to sort of communicate and process the receiving of an answer without talking,” says Mr. Bateman. “It could have gone really bad with a lot of eyebrow acting.”

The revolution in communicating via text, often on tiny phone screens, is presenting filmmakers with a huge challenge: How do you show it on the big screen?

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