As you’ve probably realised by now, I’ve been a lifelong fan of science fiction and its various tropes and concepts. But as much as I love the notion of space travel, exploration and discovery, the sci-fi concept that intrigues me even more than invisibility is time travel.
Not the Doctor Who kind (though I’m a fan of the series) where he just pops up here and there, and changes the course of history on a whim with no thought of how many people whatever he’s done has affected – but the mind warping kind where everything you do can change the present or the future.
Much as I like H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, my personal favourite and the finest time travel novels I’ve ever read is called Replay by Ken Grimwood. It’s the one that actually made me think more about what you could and couldn’t do and the price that would have to be paid. I’m linking to it here so you can find out more about it – it is certainly well worth a read.
See, I think that if you were actually able to travel back in time, the mere fact that you’re where you don’t belong in itself changes the timeline, so the merest interaction with anybody will subtly change things, and thus, if you were able to make back it to your own time, it might be unrecognisable to you.
We’ve seen a lot of found footage films over the past few years – most of them are horror movies, and the concept that you’re watching fictitious footage that has been found immediately gives the game away that the cast haven’t made it to the final credits. They have an un-nerving habit of finishing with a disturbing final image. It’s refreshing therefore to see this type of film adapted to a different genre.
I guess this is my wordy way of saying that what we have here is a clever time travel movie that is done in the manner of one of the cast filming everything as a document of what happens.
So, we have a setup where a bunch of outsider high school kids including David, a potential genius trying to get a scholarship to MIT and his sister who is constantly bullied by the queen bitch of the high school. The family is broke, the mother tries to sell the house to pay David’s tuition fees and basically, life sucks.
Rummaging through the attic they find an old video camera, containing taped footage of David’s seventh birthday party – which was also the day their father was killed. The poignancy of the tape is marred by David noticing a peculiar detail on the tape. He sees himself as an adult in the background, attending his own birthday as a child. Freaky!!!
They find the plans to a time machine, designed but not built by their late father and set about building it.
So, the first thing anybody would do if they went back in time I guess would be to make themselves richer – the guy in Replay did it, Marty McFly did it – right? So the kids go back a few days in time and put in the winning lottery numbers. In the present, the money is shared out and the house is taken off sale – but as ever, they need more money – which is where things start to go wrong.
As they begin to tamper with relationships and events, going back further in time, every action has a reaction in the present and every effort to “fix” things makes everything worse in a weird butterfly effect (See what I did there?)
It’s an excellent story well told and doesn’t fall into the other trap that many of these found footage films do, which is have camera work that is so shaky that the audience can’t follow what’s going on, or worse, as in the case of Chronicle – actually gives the audience motion sickness. It’s important that although the film should be shot shakily enough to sell the audience on the idea that it’s “home made” so to speak and to keep reminding them of that – but it must never be so shaky that it’s a nauseating distraction. That defeats the whole object.
Great work from director Dean Israelite on his debut feature length movie, instantly making him someone with watch out for.
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