When a middle-aged Spanish man spots a young, attractive woman stripping near his new house, he decides to trip off into the woods for a better look. Sure the day had been a little weird for him, his rear door had opened on his SUV causing his stuff to spill out, and he got a phone call from a strange number, but breasts in the woods might make up for all of that. He wonders around a path, spots some weird things (bike next to a beat up trashcan!) and then spots the lady herself. Nude. Propped against a rock. Unresponsive. Think to yourself. What would your next handful of actions be? Would it be to throw a stick at her and then slowly creep forward? And when you do this, and a guy in a pink bandage stabs you with scissors and then chases you, ineffectively, through the woods, would you run over to some sort of research facility, smash out an entire full length window, and then casually pick through the place looking for bandages and a walkie talkie? Probably not, but that is the set up for this film, which does get better and passibly more believable (hold on to your time paradox hating hats, though, because its going to be a rough one).
In fact, it might be easily argued that each of the four or so main characters in the film does something, at some point, almost completely unbelievable. Whether it be a faltering time travel explanation. Whether it be a moment of utter helplessness that seems more "it's in the script!" than realistic. Whether it be something else a tad fantastical, this movie uses a few forced moments, as though it was stuck on a pair of rails through key scenes, to get itself up to speed and then, thankfully, let's itself go in the latter half and becomes much more enjoyable and suspenseful. In fact, in Timecrimes form, I will write the end of the review here, in the middle, and say that the movie is Good, but Hector manages to do, by my count, three things that are so unbelievably frustrating that you cannot help but to wonder if the scriptwriter was unwilling to try, even a little bit, to make two of those three things (surely everyone is warranted a single mistake) more a product of the moment than some, presumably Spanish, obstinancy.
What else to say about the movie without risking a slight spoiler? That might be kind of hard. I will say that time travel (of course) is involved. While running from his attacker, the lab that Hector stumbles across has a time travel device that works and he gets sent back in time. In the manner of all time travel movies, he manages to stumble and bumble and confuse things which pile onto his plight. Tables are turned, what was scary a few scenes back is now scary or problematic in another way, and more fixing is needed. You've seen Butterfly Effect right, where an attempt to fix the past completely hoses the future? Well, much like that, except not like that at all. Anyhow, just watch it and you will see what I mean.
The end product is as much about the good things that go into making a low budget, small cast movie, as anything to do with its plot. Only a tiny handful of people make up the story and do a good job. Only a handful of sets are needed and fit together well while providing plenty of stage for the actors. Only a handful of props (couple of vehicles, a bike, a time machine). The winks and nods are few and at least half are clever. It feels cozy and, though not warm, effective. A few scenes are shot especially wonderfully. The scene where Hector runs up the lighted path to the "silo" towards the beginning comes to mind. The initial chase scene that sets up all the other action is appropriately creepy, with other similar scenes effectively disturbing. The ending, I would argue, plays out to a heartwrenching and disturbing note for completely different reasons than you would expect before it gets to it. Low-key, instead of dramatic, but all the more poignant for it.
To sum up, see the note a couple of paragraphs back. A little different than many (not all) time travel movies and it has some really nice scenes and some really dumb moments, recommended more for the experience of seeing a very indie foreign film that was probably kind of cheap to shoot and worked well despite most of its limits. I will warn you to avoid most online discussion of this movie: people apparently get really confused for no reason. Look, my wife was sleepy and had had a few drinks before watching this and got it no problem. You read things online and you will be convinced that there are at least a dozen intepretations of events, some involving unseen but implied characters, and none of it supported by the movie. That was just fair warning. Probably, if you are the sort to read my blog, watch the movie. Even if you hate it, it's one of those movies (like, say, Cube) that a certain type of movie fan needs to have under his or her belt.
Si Vales, Valeo
Unable to really talk about this without spoiling the movie, above, I wanted to point out some commentary about the events. I said, above, that plot takes a back seat to production values, but this is not true. It is only that the plot is kind of "short story" in scope, like a good PKD short story in which it all comes down to a few key scenes and very little development goes on past those few key scenes. There are four main characters: Hector, the wife, the girl, and the guy. Let's look only at two: Hector and the girl. He goes into the woods after her, right? Finds her unclothed and this sets up everything. Prior to finding her, though, she found him crashed in the woods and stops to help him. She is wearing a shirt that has two cats on it. One blue and one red, one upside down and one rightside up. In the middle is a sort of "z" shaped symbol.
Later, after the jaunt through time, when Hector is faced with the choice of staying in the compound or leaving, he decides to leave. The gate is opened by a remote device and, lo and behold, the device's symbol (the symbol of the company or the gate company) is that same "z" between the two cats. If you are paying attention, this is on purpose. At that moment, he could choose to go out of the gates or not. If he goes out of the gates, he sets in motion the events of the movie. The girl is killed and Hector #1a stays alive. If he does not go out of the gates, then the girl goes on down the road with no problems and Hector #1a ceases to be and Hector #1b lives a normal life. Because #1a does not want to be destroyed by what he considers a clone (what is #1b in this reckoning, or start of movie Hector) he opens the gate and creates the events in the movie.
Except, well, this movie takes a very non-paradox view of time. The events of the past and future are already taken place. The choice Hector #1a makes, to stay alive, is the only reason he exists to begin with. He can no more avoid going out of that gate than the girl can avoid the later effects of gravity. Maybe. Or maybe he could have stayed inside, sacrificed nothing more than an hour of terror, and it would have been all for the best.
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Written by Doug Bolden
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