Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2014: Time Lapse Review!

Time travel movies were, up to a point, strictly the realm of big-budget films where scientists with Troll-Doll hair and a penchant for exclaiming 'Great Scott!' would nag young Family Ties alums about creating paradoxes by screwing with their own timelines. After Shane Carruth's breakthrough Primer, though, everything changed. Suddenly it was possible to write a great story and use time-travel as a device to put a great character piece onscreen without needing any elaborate special effects. That's what Time Lapse attempts to accomplish and though it’s not a flawless film by any means, it gets remarkably close to the mark.

Finn (Matt O' Leary) is a painter and building manager for an apartment complex in which he lives with his girlfriend Callie (Danielle Panabaker) and the eccentric, scheming Jasper (George Finn). With tension brewing between the trio over typical roommate stuff like money and a dissatisfaction with work situations, things escalate after the death of their eccentric scientist neighbor reveals that he has discovered and built a machine that can take Polarioid pictures of the future. The issue of how best to capitalize on this information, if at all, results in a conflict reminiscent of Shallow Grave, and a situation where no one can be trusted. In particular, the need to re-create (or is it create? dun dun dunnnn) the future scene from the Polaroids becomes the source of huge drama and implications for the three friends.

Beyond the usual trappings of a time-travel story (paradoxes, the question of fate, etc), there's a really small but important set of interpersonal issues that are brought to the surface in Time Lapse, which snowball into a climax that leaves everyone involved with wounds both literal and figurative. At times you feel like you're watching a stage play, as the film is particularly dialogue-heavy, only a small handful of sets are used, and the characters are kept to the barest minimum. Callie's is probably the meatiest role here and Panabaker takes you through a rollercoaster of emotions throughout Time Lapse's running time, but O'Leary and Finn more than hold their own in scenes with enough tension to make any viewer squirm.

Time Lapse is the perfect reminder that there's a lot to love about minimalist, diminutive sci-fi. In a lot of ways the time travel/prediction is a bit of a MacGuffin, where the Polaroids could be substituted for almost any get-rich-quick scheme, but the dramatic tension between the three leads is more than enough to sustain the film. In a different time, this story would be right at home in an episode of The Outer Limits or The Twilight Zone, but as a standalone piece, it's a great little mind-bender that shows that time travel doesn't exclusively have to be the realm of Marty and Doc anymore.


Check out Toronto After Dark's schedule, ticket info, and more here.

This piece was written by Sachin Hingoo, a freelance writer when he is not working at an office job that is purpose-built for paying the bills while he works as a freelance writer. His writing has appeared on, the CBC Street Level Blog,, and The Midnight Madness Blog for the Toronto International Film Festival. He has also been featured at Toronto lecture series Trampoline Hall (which is rumored to be excellent). His mutant power is 'feigning interest'. You can read all of his posts here.


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