Somehow this little sci-fi, time travel, paradox embracing film never hit my radar when it first came out. It would occasionally pop up in my recommended lists, and I would think yeah, I should check that out, and then promptly forget about it.
But the wait was worth it, because when I finally did settle in for it, it wowed me, messed with my mind, and played with a few temporal taboos.
In a story that crosses its own timeline a number of times, we follow a temporal agent, known as The Barkeep (Ethan Hawke) as he goes after the one criminal that he and the agency have been able to catch. Known as the Fizzle Bomber, he destroyed ten blocks of New York in March of 1975, and the Barkeep’s career has been leading up to this.
On a stakeout in 1970, working a bar, he encounters a writer, who goes by the nom de plume The Unmarried Mother (Sarah Snook) who reveals a moving, heart-wrenching tale, that the Barkeep slowly reveals he knows more about than he should.
From there, the story twists in and around itself exploring the concepts of love, fate and paradoxes.
As the story began to unfurl, I’m sorry to say that I saw where it was headed, but loved the execution of it. Both Snook and Hawke turn in fantastic performances, that make you question a number of things, and not all of them are comfortable.
The production design of the film is brilliant, the sets and costumes seem period perfect so when you see something anachronistic in it, you know something is going on. Everything in this film just works, and seeing how it all intertwines is a great payoff, especially as you are left to wonder if there is no choice for the Barkeep as the credits roll.
This is one of those temporal tales that you have to pay attention to the entire time, the story is fairly linear despite the fact that it moves back and forth through time, and I love the journey that both the Unmarried Mother and the Barkeep go on to discover who they are, and what that means for them and their own lives.
The paradox at the center of the film is just amazing, and almost elevates one’s thoughts to a zen level as attempts to reconcile it are attempted in one’s own mind. It’s hinted at a number of times throughout the film, through little pieces of throwaway dialogue and music, which are huge indicators of what the twists are going to be, but doesn’t make them any less impactful.
Now that I’ve seen it the once, I may sit through it again to see if I missed anything, or if it changes your appreciation of the film knowing all the reveals. Have you seen it? If not, add this one to your list!