Science Fiction will always have a special relationship with the abstract quandaries of time. Much in the same vein as The Edge of Tomorrow and Predestination, Bradley King’s Time Lapse asks some interesting questions about the reflexivity of time, and the general effectiveness of being able to know the future. Apprehensively approaching its subject from a fresh, interesting angle, Time Lapse never quite fulfills the lofty goals it has for itself. Stifled by rigid performances and equally unwieldy dialogue, a provocative premise is reduced to little more than standard B-movie fare.
An unlikely band of friends (Matt O’Leary as Finn, Danielle Panabaker as Callie, George Finn as Jasper) find that a giant Polaroid camera has been taking photos of their living room for months. Bolted to the floor in their neighbor’s abandoned apartment, the unusual device spits out a snapshot every day at 8 pm; each photo is a glance 24 hours into the future. Discovering their neighbor’s corpse in his highly secure storage closet, the three decide that the contents of the photo are stringent guidelines for the future, and any deviation results in death. With this tenet of wavering logic, our protagonists use the pictures to their advantage — Finn to conquer his artistic block, and Jasper to amass a small fortune from dog racing. Slaves to their future selves, the trio’s lives are thrown into chaos when some dark omens begin to develop.
The script, written by King and B.P. Cooper, promotes several heady ideas about the cyclical nature and flexibility of time. Once the camera is discovered, the loss of free will is a foregone conclusion. The question becomes whether the pictures are inevitable, or if it’s the characters’ mistaken interpretations that are leading to their destiny. While the initial impulses are based in greed, the trio’s decisions become increasingly paranoid as “remaking” the photo is all that matters. Ultimately boiling down to “the future never ends well,” Time Lapse neglects too many avenues of thought (what happens if a small change is made to the photo, or if the pictures are ignored all together) to maintain a lasting sense of interest.
Bradley King’s inexperience behind the camera is minimized by a select few shots that display the dynamism of a much more seasoned director. A fondness for cutting on action and shot-reverse-shot conversations become quickly tiresome, although what bogs down Time Lapse is hardly “how” King is shooting, but “what” he has chosen to shoot. The film’s downfall is undoubtedly its characters. Uncompromising in their narrow motivations (and bizarrely concocted), Callie, Finn and Jasper make small-minded decisions look even more foolish. For example, if you could see a day into the future, would you give yourself lottery numbers, or the trifecta for tomorrow’s greyhound races? Formulaic dialogue serves expositional purposes and fictionalizes our characters. Mediocre performances are rendered to little more than cartoonish outbursts and lumbering monologues. We are never made to care for these people; we just hope they stop talking.
Although aided by some big ideas, Time Lapse collapses under the weight of its ambitious log line and crude script. While King’s film falters, it’s not the utter disaster it could have been, which is both a credit to the director, and a positive sign for his future endeavors.
Jordan Brooks (@viewtoaqueue) is an increasingly-snobby cinefile based out of sunny San Diego, California. As a contributor to several online publications, including his own blog, he has succeeded in fulfilling his life long dream of imposing strong opinions on others.