Monday, June 02, 2014

I’ll Follow You Down: Canadian Time Travel

As a family of academics, it is not surprising the Whytes are prone to depression and dysfunctional insecurities. At least they have a good reason. While still a young boy, Erol’s father mysteriously vanishes while attending a theoretical physics conference. His absence continues to haunt Erol and his mother, but the son might be able to fix his broken family by reconstructing his father’s time travel research in Richie Mehta’s I’ll Follow You Down (trailer here), which opens this Friday in the Tri-State Area.

Gabe Whyte’s luggage remained in his Princeton hotel room, but no trace could be found of the Toronto scholar. His wife Marika never really recovered from the loss. Arguably though, some good came out of the misfortune, from Erol’s perspective. While his mother was away searching for his father, the young boy forged a deep bond with Grace, his childhood sweetheart. In fact, they are poised to get married after their undergrad studies, until his mother finally succumbs to her depression.

As he mourns his mother, Whyte starts to reconsider his Grandpa Sal’s crazy claims. The good professor is convinced Gabe developed a method of time travel, journeying through a wormhole to have a discussion with Einstein, presumably meeting with misadventure somewhere along the way. However, it will take more than a garden variety genius like Prof. Gramps to replicate his work. Only an exceptional mind like Erol’s is equal to the task. The upside for his family will be profound if Whyte can save his father, but what will happen to his relationship with Grace?

Follow definitely has its cerebral side, which is a good thing, but it is also unusually emotionally mature for science fiction. Instead of speculating about the Butterfly Effect and how it might alter macro history and technology, Mehta focuses on how it could transform the Whyte family. As a result, it is not nearly as intricately constructed and gleefully mind-blowing as Nacho Vigalondo’s Timecrimes or Hugh Sullivan’s The Infinite Man, but its time shifting business still holds together pretty well.

As a misfit genius, The Sixth Sense’s Haley Joel Osment makes a convincing misfit. The genius part requires a bit more willful suspension of disbelief. He more or less keeps his head above water, but it is far certain whether Follow will herald a major career comeback. Wisely, he is surrounding by a quality supporting cast with serious genre cred. Alias’s Victor Garber is on familiar turf as the decent mentoring grandfather, but he is still a reassuring presence. Rufus Sewell makes intelligence charismatic as the temporally misplaced Whyte, while The X-Files’ Gillian Anderson is surprisingly compelling as miserable mother Marika.

Like Infinite Man and Darren Paul Fisher’s Frequencies, Follow is the sort of cleverly conceived science fiction that does not require extensive special effects. A dose of Einstein (not a character) beats an explosion any day. Recommended with enthusiasm for time travel fans, I’ll Follow You Down opens this Friday (6/6) at the AMC Jersey Gardens in Elizabeth, via Well Go USA.