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Ben Austwick [Film Festival 05.06.09] movie review scifi

Year: 2009
Directors: Danny Kuchuck & John Weiner
Writers: ?
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Ben Austwick
Rating: 6.5 out of 10

Jessie is a dysfunctional teenager with a fraught relationship with her father, deeply affected by the accidental death of her mother when she was a child. When she finds an old mobile phone her mother gave her before she died and dials the phone number of her old house, an unexplained time travel quirk means Jessie finds herself talking to herself as a child.

Realising she may be able to guide her childhood self into acting to avert her mother's death, Jessie inadvertently changes the world she is in by changing the past, but her mother's death seemingly remains inevitable. As Jessie tries to unpick and eliminate its causes, she uncovers a secret that shows that more than fate is at play.

Never predictable and building in tension as it takes us through different times and realities, this complicated story is well plotted and connects up well as a coherent whole. It's a little clumsy at times, especially in the early stages where a set-up that sees Jessie discover the long-lost phone in a drawer beside her bed, and asks out loud what would happen if she phoned her old house, isn't smooth enough to suspend disbelief for the plotting acrobatics that follow. Moments of clumsiness pop up in the rest of the film, but once the initial device is out of the way it does largely manage to avoid them, even if the memory unfortunately remains.

Some films with twisting plot mechanics at their core can end up feeling a little cold, exercises in clever film making that never really engage the viewer. Cryptic avoids this by packing a considerable emotional punch, both in the sad themes of the story and in great performances by Julie Carson as the tortured, unhappy Jessie, Toby Huss as her frustrated and complex father and Johnny Pacar as Jessie's sullen boyfriend, Damon. All are called on to play subtly different versions of themselves as the story moves impressively.

The assured acting and emotional softness at Cryptic's centre just about rescue it from mid-budget indie mediocrity, with its wearily familiar Southern Californian suburban setting and self-conscious, slow-paced style. A humour-free eighty minutes, it takes itself a bit too seriously for a film that explores little beyond its own storyline. It isn't a bad film by any means, competently executed all round, just a familiar and unoriginal one that doesn't leave much of an impression.

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wa5 (13 years ago) Reply

Just like "Frequency" (2000) where the son finds his 30 year dead fathers' ham radio and with the help of solar flares speaks to his dad.


Ben Austwick (13 years ago) Reply

I'll check "Frequency" out, never seen it. It sounds a bit better - there are no reasons given why Jessie can speak to herself back in time, it's just used to hang the plot on.


projectcyclops (13 years ago) Reply

Great review, sounds like an interesting one.

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