Review by Rich Cline | 4/5

dir-scr Jared Moshe
prd Neda Armian, T Justin Ross
with Judy Greer, Edi Gathegi, Payman Maadi, Faithe Herman, Whitney Morgan Cox, Veda Cienfuegos, Elohim Nycalove, Adam O'Byrne, Coel Mahal, Rachel Paulson, Mann Alfonso, Lisa Linke
release US 11.Aug.23
23/US 1h43

greer gathegi maadi

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gathegi and greer
There's an almost startlingly personal angle to this intriguing time-bending drama, getting under the skin to explore a mind-boggling array of emotions as aporia, or a state of uncertainty, sets in. Sidestepping effects and refusing to focus on gimmicky details, writer-director Jared Moshe pulls the audience in with emotional reactions and nuanced ethical questions. As the situation gets increasingly urgent and messy, the film becomes unusually gripping.
Struggling to cope with grief, Sophie (Greer) thinks of little beyond her late husband Mal (Gathegi), even as 11-year-old daughter Riley (Herman) begins acting up at school. Helping her cope is neighbour Jabir (Maadi), a physicist colleague of Mal's who has built a device that can possibly stop Mal's fatal accident by killing the culprit. So they fire it up, and are delighted that it works. But feelings of guilt begin to swell, and Sophie isn't sure Jabir and Mal should keep using it to right wrongs. Indeed, messing with the space-time continuum has repercussions.
Blinding scientific explanations for Jabir's machine add an enjoyable whiff of authenticity to the clanking machine he has built out of spare parts in his guest room. It does its thing with a satisfying click and puff of smoke. But the film instead centres on Sophie as she grapples with the fallout from her decision, most notably how it has affected another mother and daughter (Cox and Cienfuegos). And for Jabir and Mal, the mere idea of this device is too insistent to ignore. So it begins to consume each of them for very good reasons.

The characters have realistically different levels of unease about using this contraption. Greer gives a lovely naturalistic performance as Sophie, happy about this turn of events. Along with guilt, she also feels like she missed a year of her life. Gathegi's Mal has made peace with his own past, and the gift of a present. While Maadi gives Jabir an added layer of pain as a man who lost everything many years ago due to political turmoil and is simply trying to help others. None of this is remotely simplistic.

Realistic conversations pepper this film, offering increasing insight into both the characters and the central idea of being able to go back in time and correct a perceived injustice. Because this device works by committing a targeted murder, the story's moral dimension grows exponentially. Where the narrative goes is fiendishly clever, complete with mind-bending twists that carry a properly moving kick, largely because we identify so strongly with each of the characters.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 7.Aug.23

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© 2023 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall