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Review: 'Aporia' makes you think about time travel

Posted Wednesday, September 13, 2023 at 11:56 AM Central
Last updated Wednesday, September 13, 2023 at 11:57 AM Central

by John Couture

When you think about time travel, one film usually climbs up the collective unconsciousness of your memory and it involves a DeLorean. While Back to the Future and its two sequels give more weight to laughs than existential and ethical issues, those films continue to provide a cultural touchpoint in time travel as well as entertain new audiences every day.

Aporia is on the other end of the time-travel spectrum.

While it eschews the heavy math involved with its Sci-fi premise as well, the film is content to linger in the ethical and moral issues involved with tampering with the past. Think Inception without all the dream sequences.

Since losing her husband Mal (Edi Gathegi) in a drunk-driving incident, Sophie (Judy Greer) has struggled to manage crippling grief, a full-time job, and the demands of parenting her devastated teenage daughter (Faithe Herman). When her husband's best friend Jabir (Payman Maadi), a former physicist, reveals that he has been building a time-bending machine that could restore her former life, Sophie will be faced with an impossible choice—and unforeseeable consequences.

Not to get too far in the weeds about time travel and changing the past, there has always been one ultimate truth in literature and film about it: if you change the past, there will be ripples that will alter the present and the future. In Back To The Future, Part II, think Biff going back in time and changing Hill Valley into his personal Hell Scape with him firmly planted on his golden throne.

Likewise, the main protagonists always seem to be the only ones who remember the original timeline. Aside from making films boring, why do these ripples always create massive tsunamis of unintended consequences? Why couldn't killing the drunk driver who killed your husband just be something that fades from the memories of those around you over time like a childhood best friend whose name always escapes you?

Well, because then movies would be like 15 minutes long and always have a happy ending. For every Hot Tub Time Machine, there needs to be an Aporia to balance out the hijinks with serious thought-provocation. And I am here for it.

Let me state for the record that I have always been a massive fan of Judy Greer and I am delighted to finally see her get her chance to lead a story and demonstrate her emotional range. As someone who has been perpetually cast as the funny best friend, Greer has always struck me as someone who has so much more to bring to the table.

In fact, it's probably a crime that I waited this long to sing her praises in this review. She not only carries the film, but she is the emotional and ethical center of the film for the audience and she embodies all of the grief that we have had at ever losing a loved one. Likewise, her hope for a happy ending rings true for everyone who has ever uttered the phrase, "What if?"

The emotional connection between Greer and Edi Gathegi is real and raw at moments that will have you convinced that they aren't simply acting. No, this is a wonderful deep dive into the ramifications of difficult decisions made every day. They probably won't always have the ability to change the past, but that doesn't mean that the decision to leave a spouse or alter your path isn't as fraught with pitfalls as the decisions in Aporia.

Speaking of Inception earlier, that's probably an apt comparison to Aporia in terms of emotional weight and resonance. No, Aporia isn't the special-effects-driven actioner that Inception is, but the film's last endearing shot will have you as rapt as the spinning top in Inception.

This ambiguity might be seen as a cop-out by some, but it's really the only resolution that makes sense. It allows the viewer to fill in their own thoughts on the end which allows them to increase their ownership in the film's legacy. I'm convinced that this is why Inception has lingered in my brain for as long as it has and I'm sure that Aporia will likewise continue to stew in my noggin over the next several months.

And to me, this is what constitutes a great film. It doesn't have to be biggest comic book blockbuster, but if it can elicit an emotional response and lodge itself into your consciousness, then it has done its job. Aporia is that type of film that you'll be watching over and over again, picking up little nuances with each watch.

Aporia is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.