I’ll Follow You Down

When Gabriel (Rufus Sewell) disappears on a business trip, he leaves behind his bereft wife Marika (Gillian Anderson) and a son, Erol, who is almost too young to remember him. As Erol grows up (to be played by a grown-up Haley Joel Osment), he and Marika are taken in by Marika’s father (Victor Garber). Then everything goes to hell. Also, there is time travel.

It is the most depressing movie I have ever seen.

Okay, that’s not true. The most depressing movie I have ever seen is In the Mood For Love, which made me burst into gigantic wracking sobs the first time I watched it. (In a college class, which was awkward for everyone.) It is more precise to say this is the most depressed movie I have ever seen.

This is a movie about profound loss, the sort of loss you cannot recover from. Everyone connected to Gabriel loses hope; it’s like his disappearance set off a Rube Goldberg device of despair. According to Dante, “without hope, we live in desire.” In this movie, without hope, people invent time travel. I guess that how physicists cope. Although the notion of a cosmic do-over is appealing, I’ll Follow You Down lives up to its title: it’s a slim line between resetting the future and abandoning the present in an endless spiral of destruction.

The journey down is paved with well-intentioned performances. Of course, Victor Garber is perfect in all ways, especially when playing a character whose compassion for his family is hidden by a reserved intelligence. Haley Joel Osment, as Erol, does a strong job of communicating both intelligence and compassionate loss; I was very impressed at how he grew up to be a fine actor.

Gillian Anderson is perhaps the most impressive, though: so often, she communicates complex emotions in a very subtle way. Here, she allows herself a bit more leeway to really emote, to astonishing effect (especially if you, like me, have come to think of her as a model of restraint).

How much does time travel play a part? Not as much as I hoped when I started the film. This is a movie about what provokes people to want a cosmic do-over and about how they achieve one. There are many, many scenes of people talking about physics. The time travel at the end, though, does a wonderful job of playing with the conceit of the grandfather paradox in a way that was new to me. It made the setup worth it.

The result is sedate and depressing, but interesting nonetheless. I wouldn’t recommend this to just anyone, but if you’re curious about the emotional aspects of time travel, interested in watching depressed people act depressed, and like Victor Garber, you might enjoy this film.

Josie Kafka reviews The Vampire Diaries, Game of Thrones, and various other things that take her fancy. She is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)

3 comments:

Billie Doux said...

I knew you were posting a review so I watched this movie the other night. It's definitely on the depressing side but the cast is terrific (Gillian Anderson, Victor Garber, Haley Joel Osment, Rufus Sewell, all strong performances) and the story was engaging. I wasn't sorry I tried it. The lunch counter conversation was probably my favorite scene.

mazephoenix said...

I need to see this, as I love ms.Anderson and Sewell. I'm doing small cartwheels of joy as Anderson is in the cast for Fuller's "American Gods".
So this movie looks promising. Thanks for the review.

TJ said...

Thanks for the review! This sounded interesting so I just watched it. I thought this was a brilliant time-travel-headache story. It always seems that messing with time never ends well. Trying to change history might seem noble, but can we really change it? I'm thinking of shows like "The man in the high castle" and "11.22.63". Maybe there are other parameters than time that are more important and we don't really understand? Fate? Inevitability? Or is it just headache?