Thursday, June 02, 2022

The Time Capsule: Love and Relativity

Faster-than-light travel doesn’t change people. It just alters the way they experience of time. That makes it quite tragic for those who don’t want to go, like the poor shipman involuntarily pressed into service in L. Ron Hubbard’s To the Stars (from when he was still readable and not yet messianic). Hundreds of years will pass on that poor soul’s home before he can return, but for Jack Lambert, only twenty years have passed on Earth since his teenaged girlfriend left for the space colonies. Now, she is back and she hasn’t aged a day in Erwann Marshall’s The Time Capsule, which releases tomorrow on-demand.

Lambert just suffered through the embarrassing implosion of his senate campaign, so he and his wife Maggie have come to his dad’s old lake house to regroup. They also need to sell the place, to help pay down his campaign debts. His old pal Patrice will help with the handywork. The place holds a lot of memories for Lambert, so he assumes he is seeing things when he spies his old flame Elise, who doesn’t look a day older than he remembers her.

It turns out, after ten years of suspended animation space flight, the colony was still behind schedule, so they immediately sent Elise and her father back to Earth, on another 10-year flight. Elise remembers seeing teenaged Lambert in what only feels like a few weeks prior, but now he is a very married, disappointing politician. Of course, he never got over her. In fact, it was his controlling father who arranged for their place in the colony. The adult version of Lambert knows he cannot just pick-up with Elise (even though the film repeatedly tells us she is eighteen, so nobody freaks out)—but there is still that old chemistry between them.

Marshall and co-screenwriter Chad Fifer cleverly use Relativity as their Macguffin and skillfully skirt the potential pitfalls (there are no inappropriate moments to gross-out the overly sensitive). It is actually a really smart way build a character-driven story atop a science fiction premise. They also shrewdly keep Lambert’s platform sufficiently vague, so as not to needless alienate viewers.

Todd Grinnell and Briana Hildebrand play their roles as Lambert and Elise with great sensitivity and restraint, but KaDee Strickland arguably gives a more complicated performance as his ambitious wife, Maggie. Baron Vaughn and Ravi Patel both provide some welcome comic relief as Patrice and Lambert’s obnoxious political consultant, Roger. This could have gone really wrong, but the small ensemble handles the material quite skillfully.

At times,
Time Capsule might feel a bit like a padded-out episode of The Twilight Zone, but that’s really pretty high praise. In fact, it has the right kind of internal logic that pays-off at the end. Recommended for fans of romantic and human-focused science fiction, The Time Capsule releases virtually this Friday (6/3).