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Fantasia 2023: Aporia Review

July 28, 2023 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
Aporia Image Credit: Well Go USA
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Fantasia 2023: Aporia Review  

Directed by: Jared Moshe
Written by: Jared Moshe

Judy Greer – Sophie
Edi Gathegi – Mal
Payman Maadi – Jabir
Faithe Herman – Riley
Whitney Morgan Cox – Kara
Rachel Paulson – May Cantos
Veda Cienfuegos – Aggie
Adam O’Byrne – Darby
Lisa Linke – Nurse Cohen

Image Credit: Well Go USA

Running Time: 104 minutes
Rated R for some language.

It has to be difficult for filmmakers to find new ways to invoke time travel at this point. The conceit of moving back and forth through the flow of time has been a part of cinema since Emmett J. Flynn directed an adaptation of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court in 1921 and has been used fairly consistently in the century since. It’s a common enough trope that we’ve had multiple movies that use other movies as a reference to shorthand their own time travel (see: Avengers Endgame & The Flash, just to name two).

And yet, the thematic power of time travel storytelling is strong enough that it will probably never go out of vogue. There will always be filmmakers who can find new ways to apply the use of temporal trickery in exploring the themes they want to convey. And Aporia is a great example of that. Jared Moshe’s sci-fi drama, which had its world premiere at Fantasia International Film Festival on Thursday, centers the classic question of “What if you could go back in time and kill someone to save a life?” to explore the notion of grief and loss.

Aporia jettisons the high science fiction aspects of time travel for a more grounded and character-focused story. As it begins, Sophie (Judy Greer) is dealing with the tragic loss of her husband Mal (Edi Gathegi), who passed away in a drunk driving accident. She is devastated and unable to provide solace for their emotionally shut-down daughter Riley (Faithe Herman). Desperately trying to keep everything afloat, she is also trying to manage her work as a long-term care nurse and see that the man who killed Mal sees justice done. To say none of is going well would be an understatement.

Enter Mal’s friend Jabir (Payman Maadi). Jabir and Mal were both physicists before situations led to their being sidelined, and Jabir reveals to Sophie that they had been working on a time machine. While it isn’t able to send people through time, it can send a particle. And Jabir has figured out how to use that particle to kill someone a certain distance the past. He suggests that they use it to kill the man who killed Mal, and it doesn’t take long before Sophie agrees.

In most time travel films, this would be the point when things start spiraling out of control into alternate worlds or reality crashing down upon itself due to paradox. But the story that Moshe is interested in telling delves into more emotional and grounded territory than that. Instead, we get just enough science and theory to set things up and then explore what changing the past does to this small collection of people. There are some Butterfly Effect-like twists, but everything builds toward character and theme rather than twists and thrills.

That means that the film leans hard on the cast to sell it all, and they all deliver. Greer is best known for her comedic work, but it’s always a joy to see her stretch the dramatic muscles and she holds down the center of this film with an often-heartbreaking performance. The chemistry of all three leads feels very natural and real; you instantly buy these relationships. Herman has a bit less to do as the more emotionally muted Riley, but she holds down her end quite well.

As the film progresses beyond the first act, things start to unravel for Sophie, Mal and Jabir, and Moshe keeps things low-key without losing any impact. There’s no need for hefty visual effects work here; instead, we have editing that tends to hit like a gut punch and it sells the moments well. Moshe’s story deals in some weighty themes, but the film never gets caught up in the weeds of it all and even with the heartbreaking moments it never turns into misery porn. He’s equally interested in exploring the moments of joy in the decisions Sophie and Jabir make as he is the pain that they can bring, and that helps make Aporia a compelling, potent watch all the way to the final moments.

The Fantasia International Film Festival takes place in Montreal from July 20th through August 9th.

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
Jared Moshe's Aporia takes the common trope of time travel and cleverly applies it to a grounded and emotionally rich tale about grief, loss and empathy. Judy Greer delivers a can't-miss performance while both Edi Gathegi and Payman Maadi are right on the ball as well. It's affecting without being sappy and tragic without being cynical, lending significant weight to how it explores its heady themes.