A man dances at the edge of a dark hole. "I know, deep down that if I don't do this, I'd never be able to truly live my life. I'd always feel like I'm not really here, like I'm in a dream."
DEMAND ON VIEWER: Mild-Moderate. Slow, very quiet, English film.
So begins the oblique storytelling style of this atmospheric and very literary film, combining elements of English countryside, dapper period costume, mysterious time travel, and a restrained but powerful love story.
|A jump rope is used to show how time can fold back on itself|
The machine he builds is made, interestingly, with a piano. The elemental quality of music is alluded to as a possible key to time. The haunting score
The film avoids some of the usual traps and cliches of the genre. Almost all plot and theme development is accomplished through the dialogue, with very careful and exquisitely shot visuals between. Very literary and appreciable by children (good for attention span development and vocabulary, and features children as characters. It hooked my kids from the beginning!)
Dancing through his three-dimensional string map, Stephen seems to show us that no left-brained, linear exercise in mathematics or physics can lead us where memory can only go. He and Annie go through a beautifully rendered waltz through the same map. Their connection seems to indicate the need to pay attention to our present circumstances, and our present loves, even while knowing that they are transient and part of a fragile web of possible futures.
"I don't believe that time is a straight line from point A to point B. It's a line, a loop, a tangle, a sculpture of dazzling complexity." The end of the film leaves us with much to ponder, about the nature of time and reality, and whether or not Harriet's future remains unchanged or is altered by events and time-traveling interventions. There is delicious ambiguity here; if we expected a neat and tidy explanation, we will have been disappointed.
However, if we let the questions of what-who-where-when fade into the dreamy Cambridge countryside as they were seemingly meant to do in this story, we can dwell on the film's themes, and find a remarkable and tragic tale of love and loyalty; lenses through which we can see our own histories more clearly.