I’ll Follow You Down (2013) — A tepid turn at time travel

“I need you to be open to the craziest possibilities.”

Justin’s rating: Technobabble ahoy!

Justin’s review: I’ll Follow You Down (called Continuum in parts of the world) starts with a rather delicious mystery. A father, husband, and physicist named Gabe (Rufus Sewell, Dark City) heads to Princeton for a one-day seminar — and seemingly vanishes. Bewildered, his wife Marika (Gillian Anderson, X-Files) and father-in-law Sal (Victor Garber, Alias) comb the area only to find more elements to the mystery: his wallet, a hotel room that he didn’t check out of, and a strange machine in a dingy room.

But he’s gone, and nobody knows where or why. And that’s just how it goes for a smash cut to 12 years later, when Gabe’s prodigy son Erol (Haley Joel Osment, The Sixth Sense) is grown up and still looking for his father. Erol and Sal start to investigate the possibility that the strange machine might utilize time travel — and Gabe’s disappearance might not so much be a question of “where” as “when.” What’s worse is that Gabe not returning has created an alternate reality that’s far worse than what it should be.

Initially, Erol is reluctant to pursue this, but when he starts to realize just how messed up everything’s become because of Gabe’s vanishing, he turns his mighty brain to the re-creation of the time machine — and a trip himself to 1946. I won’t spoil too much here, but a certain Albert Einstein might play into it. The true mystery is what Gabe wanted to do in the past and why he didn’t (or couldn’t) come home again.

By staging the movie as a mystery box begging to be solved, I’ll Follow You Down takes a different tack than most time travel flicks. I applaud that. The three people that Gabe left  behind are all struggling with his absence — his wife collapsing into despair, his son neglecting his talents, and his father-in-law so riddled with guilt that he pours himself into solving the mystery. There’s also the question of whether Erol taking the journey will make other unfortunate changes — especially to the relationship with his girlfriend and their unborn child.

It’s an interesting angle, yes, but not quite the slam-bang Back to the Future II kind of wild time travel ride. It’s a kid looking for his dad and wondering why he never came back home. If you took the time travel angle out of it, it’s every child who sees a parent walk out of the house and never to return. It’s every spouse who is abandoned. The guilt and loss and self-blame from that might be too much to bear.

Knowing Osment as a child actor, this is the first time I’ve ever seen him in an adult role. He’s fine, but Osment also doesn’t let a lot of personality seem into his character. If you asked me to describe him in this movie, it’d be “too serious” and “unsmiling” and “sporting patches of facial fuzz.” Maybe it’s just knowing him from all his ’90s roles, but he seems like a child trying really really hard to act grown up and not quite there yet.

It does take too long for the time journey to actually start — 67 minutes into a 90-minute flick — and that does hurt the pacing of this movie. The filmmakers really expect you to be hooked on the drama of Erol’s relationships and internal dilemma, but really, it’s not what we’re here for. I’ll Follow You Down has a strong opening, an interesting conclusion, but an hour of treading depressing water in the middle. I’m not quite sure that’s worth it.

Honestly, if you’re looking for better lesser-known time travel movies with a familial connection, I’d point you instead toward Frequency, Predestination, or even Timescape. This one is an easy skip for me.

Didja notice?

  • This whole opening scene couldn’t foreshadow harder if it tried
  • That’s how you LEGO flirt, baby!
  • It’s a nice detail that the airport is using iMacs in 2000
  • Nice little Raiders of the Lost Ark homage
  • Chocolate milk and bacon are great for pregnant women
  • A really annoying soundtrack

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