Time-traveling movies (#SFWApro)

RANDOM QUEST (2006) adapts the same-name John Wyndham short story (previously adapted as Quest for Love, which I’ll be rewatching eventually) about a physicist whose experiment accidentally thrusts him into an alternative universe. Here he’s a successful novelist, but also a jerk who makes his wife miserable, so he sets out to win her back. This devotes more space to the alternative timeline (which deviated from ours in the 1980s because of a different Cold War trajectory) than I remember the earlier film did, but it suffers from the same problem when the physicist returns to our world: his wife’s counterpart just isn’t going to be the same woman as the one he fell in love with. Though that’s a standard issue in this genre, where time-travelers are forever running into reincarnations or exact lookalikes of their lost loves. “Before she married, she was in love with an Army officer who died in Northern Ireland.”
YESTERDAY WAS A LIE (2008) is a pretentiously arty film I had to watch twice before deciding whether the strange reshuffling of time—involving a scientist, a female PI and a notebook with a formula for controlling time and space—was all in the leads’ head or an actual thing. Very pretentious, lobbing cosmological ideas around like tennis balls and showing Dali’s Persistence of Memory (the one with the floppy watches) over and over as proof of its artiness. “What if your mind is like a surge protector that keeps you from seeing the distorted nature of reality?”
I’m a little embarrassed I forgot THE TWONKY (1953) when I drew up my original list, as it’s one I’m familiar with. Radio writer/director Arch Obeler turns the classic short story by Henry Kuttner—involving a mind-control device from the future that winds up in a modern-day man’s living room—into a clunky comedy. Hans Conried over plays the lead, the device itself is grade z in special effects and the emphasis on our freedom to make mistakes is very heavy handed (among other flaws). “I demand my right to be wrong!”
THE STICKY FINGERS OF TIME (1997) has a 1950s writer discover she’s suddenly time-traveled to present-day New York where she runs into other time travelers, meets a listless contemporary writer and learns of her own eventual death by gunshot forty years earlier. Suffers from a bad acting style (everyone appears to be sleepwalking) and starts very slow, but ultimately the story put it over. It’s a very near call though—I can see why some people dismiss the film. “You write about people like me—ambivalent characters who believe in nothing.”
RUSSIAN ARK (2002) is literally 90 minutes of pretty pictures, a tour of the Hermitgage in which the unseen protagonist (it’s all from his POV) and a 17th century visitor wander through the museum, admiring the architecture and the art and running into various ceremonies from past eras (the visitor and the modern-day Russian frequently locking horns over the merits of monarchy vs. freedom). More than a documentary, but only slightly more, so it may not make the cut (there are lots of documentaries that use a time-travel framing sequence, and I’m not including them). “It’s amazing how well I speak Russian.”
SHUFFLE (2011) stars TJ Thyne (Bones’ Hodges) as a man trying to figure out why he’s living his life out of sequence and getting Cryptic Messages that it’s all part of some cosmic design. Could it be that he’s being given a second chance to save his beloved wife? Charming enough, but the protagonist’s wife seems to have no purpose in life other than loving and being self-sacrificing for him. Like The Wicked Dreams of Paula Schultz, they seem to have drawn heavily on the star’s connections for casting as a couple more characters from Bones have roles. “I said years ago she wasn’t allowed in my house—but I had to go back on that because you married her.”


Filed under Movies, Now and Then We Time Travel

8 responses to “Time-traveling movies (#SFWApro)

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