Sunday, April 19, 2015

"I'll Follow You Down" (2013)

Starring Haley Joel Osment, Victor Garber and Gillian Anderson
Written and directed by Richie Mehta
Rated R — Language
Running Time: 93 Minutes

When Erol (Haley Joel Osment) was nine years old, his father Gabe (Rufus Sewell) disappeared. Twelve years later, his mother Marika (Gillian Anderson) has never managed to climb out of her depression. After her third suicide attempt proves successful, Erol is approached by his grandfather Sal (Victor Garber) who reveals that Gabe may have actually created a time machine and gotten lost in the past.

Thinking that if he can travel back in time to prevent his father's disappearance, Erol attempts to recreate his father's work. But as he gets closer and more obsessed with figuring it out, his girlfriend Grace (Susanna Fournier) wonders what their lives will be like in the new timeline. Will they still be together? Is their life together worth risking?

Probably the best aspect of "I'll Follow You Down" is that it spends so little time actually talking about and focusing on the idea of time travel. Instead, it's actually about the consequences to Erol's family and their lives, and the moral questions regarding changing the past. The film is sure to present Erol's life as one that's not entirely without merit; it would have been very easy to make everything totally miserable. Instead, it's more of a slow descent into melancholy and tragedy.

If anything, the film's biggest stumbles are the time travel aspects. It often feels like a bit of an afterthought, as though this were some regular movie about a young man struggling with balancing his work and family life. Then suddenly the movie remembers that his "work"... is a time machine.

When Erol is simply interacting with his family and growing obsessive with his work, "I'll Follow You Down" works best. As Erol, Haley Joel Osment has great, easy chemistry with his cast mates. In particular, his scenes with Gillian Anderson have real pop. Additionally, the relationship between Grace and Erol feels natural and warm.

Victor Garber is, sadly, saddled with a lot of expository dialogue and technobabble. He does fine with it, but there's less meat in the role than one might hope for.

Gillian Anderson's role is more limited in screen time than I'd hoped, too, but she proves once again that she's just a spectacular, lovely actress. Unlike Osment, she gets to play two versions of the same character separated by a decade of loss and depression, and she does it quite well. The difference between her opening scenes and her medicated haze later on is striking. I just wish she had more time on screen.

"I'll Follow You Down" is an interesting take on a time travel movie. More a family drama that happens to have time travel in it, the film feels fresh and interesting in that regard. The moral questions it explores are interesting concepts, though the script is inconsistent in that the dialogue can waver from good to dull. Characters sometimes have a very TV-like quality of announcing their feelings to one another, whereas other times it all feels a lot more natural.

With a great cast and some interesting ideas at its core, "I'll Follow You Down" is worth checking out. But it stumbles here and there, and the climax doesn't quite feel as powerful as one might hope. But it steams on Netflix and it's short enough that you shouldn't worry about making a big commitment.

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