by Brandon Thomas
Most time travel movies don’t get into ethical dilemmas that going into the past – or future – might cause. The plot is usually too confusing anyway so adding moral problems to the mix might send audiences screaming from the theaters. With Aporia, director Jared Moshe makes the ethics of time travel the centerpiece of the movie and to riveting results.
It’s been 8 months since Sophie (Judy Greer of 13 Going on 30, Ant-Man, and 2018’s Halloween) lost her husband, Mal (Edi Gathegi of X-Men: First Class and Gone Baby Gone) to a drunk driver. Mal’s loss has had a devastating impact on Sophie and her daughter Riley (Faithe Herman). As the two try to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives, Mal’s close friend Jabir (Payman Maadi) confides in Sophie that he has been working on a device that could potentially bring Mal back but that it would involve killing someone else in the past.
Aporia slowly reveals its cards, or genre trappings, if you will. Stylistically the film skews closer to an indie drama than it does sci-fi. This is also the film’s greatest strength. As Sophie and Jabir’s changes to the past take form in the present, it’s not through fancy CGI set-pieces. Clever changes in production design or the cast’s appearance are utilized to showcase the ripple effect in time. These easy gags help keep the film grounded. Moshe refuses to get lost in the complex mechanics of the story, instead leaning into the characters and the roller coaster of emotions they ride through the film.
The deeper Aporia questions the ethics of changing time, the more interesting the film becomes. Using these characters to ask complex questions about grief and responsibility was clearly where Moshe felt most inspired when making the film. Movies use the scenario of going back in time to kill baby Hitler as the ultimate moral time travel question. Aporia theorizes that this question – and many like it – doesn’t always have simple answers or solutions.
Greer continues to show that she deserves to be seen as more than “Hey, that girl!” Her relatability and charm help keep the character lighter than the subject matter might have allowed. Like the character of Sophie herself, Greer delicately dances between emotions – sometimes in the same scene. Given the small size of the cast, the chemistry between the core three is important and both Gathegi and Maadi also bring a natural gravitas to the film.
Aporia asks a lot of interesting and important questions but it’s the kind of film that isn’t necessarily interested in following through with answers. Here that isn’t a detriment as the journey through asking those questions makes for one of the smartest time travel films in recent memory.