Usually the first movie you watch for a festival is a bit of a let down. You’re super excited for the festival to kick off and you’ve hyped yourself up so much that almost nothing is going to stand up to your expectations of what that first movie is going to deliver. The Infinite Man is my first movie of SXSW and I went in not really expecting one of my faves of the festival so not meeting my already middling expectations would have been pretty bad.
What I came out with was a possible contender for one of the top spots at SXSW. (Hopefully after seeing the rest that the festival has to offer it’s a close competition because I’d love for all the movies to be this enjoyable.)
[From March 7th – 16th, Flixist will be providing coverage from South by Southwest 2014 in Austin, TX. Prepare yourselves for reviews, interviews, features, photos, videos, and all types of shenanigans!]
The Infinite Man
Director: Hugh Sullivan
Release Date: March 7, 2014
At it’s heart The Infinite Man is a love story. At it’s other heart The Infinite Man is a time travel story. You may already recall a film that handled these themes last year called About Time. The differences between the two are many, though they both do star a wonderfully quirky lead. While both films push to the side the mechanics of time travel The Infinite Man doesn’t quite ignore the implications as much, narrowing down its focus far better and delivering themes outside of love including obsession, attachment and dedication. This is the better time travel love story not simply because it’s time travel rules actually make sense, but because it uses those rules to define itself and its themes.
We open on Dean (Josh McConville) and Lana (Hanah Marshall) arriving at an abandoned hotel somewhere in the middle of nowhere. The two spent their last anniversary there and the OCD Dean has brought them back to recreate the magic with a perfectly constructed weekend plan. The problem is that the magic isn’t quite working and when Lana’s ex-boyfriend shows up things really go off the rails. After the two break up Dean spends a year moping around the motel and then calls Lana and uses his time travel machine to take them back in time and make the day perfect. Of course things go wrong again and eventually Dean is traveling back multiple times, meeting himself and desperately trying to figure out how to make things perfect. As well all know things are never perfect.
The confined space of the motel coupled with the film’s time travel logistics makes for a wonderful set piece for Dean’s character to slowly unravel as he tries to win back his love and figure out exactly what he wants. As things get more complex and timelines cross the film brilliantly unfolds, never breaking its own time travel rules while tossing in healthy doses of its subtly clever screenplay and humor. It’s short running time (about 90 minutes) also means that it never gets overly complex on itself and as it unfolds you realize how intricately created it is, with continuity time travel errors turning out to be fantastic twists in plot. Director Hugh Sullivan also does a fantastic job editing together the colliding timelines, using the construction of the film to not only represent the wibbly wobbly nature of time, but to emphasize the thematic nuances of the movie as well. A conversation replayed four times over unfolds each time we hear it into deeper and deeper meanings, and wonderfully lays out a metaphor for Dean’s life.
This is also mainly a one man show. McConville is one of the most charming screen presences I’ve never heard of, with that sort of comedic timing and delivery that straight men almost never get to have because their overshadowed by their comedic partner. While he’s joined on screen by Marshall he’s the one that carries this movie and he does it fantastically. Hopefully his career will start moving outside of Australia.
It’s hard to complain about much with The Infinite Man since the screenplay is so tight and well designed. There’s no wasted time or loss of momentum because there’s no space to lose it in. While some holes may exist, they’re easily overlooked and excused thanks to the quick pace and fact that all time travel films by their very nature must have holes. The film knows its goal and drives toward it with pluck and panache leaving the viewer not only working out the time line, but the growth of its characters as well. This an easy to enjoy feature length debut from a director who I’d be happy to see more of.