“Up there on the top shelf as one of the ten best cinematic chronology crunchers ever made!”
REVIEW (text version)
Yes, yes, yes… I understand a lot of people just can’t go there – science fiction films – or SF (which can also stand for Speculative Fiction) and one step further, SF films about time travel, have many people racing for the nearest exit, but here’s one so ingenious I’m putting it up there on the top shelf as one of the ten best cinematic chronology crunchers ever made.
So, those of you who can cope, step this way, and for the rest of you, please exit via the men’s lavatory…. nothing too weird in that it’s a reference to the film. This is Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel.
When F-A-Q-A-T-T was released in its native UK it was promoted with a very Brit centric proclamation, “It’s Doctor Who meets Shaun of the Dead”, and that’s not invalid except I don’t recall the good Doctor ever starting an adventure in a pub with three pints of stiff stout under his belt.
Chris O’Dowd as Ray, Dean Lennox-Kelly as Pete and Mark Wooton as Toby are the pragmatist, the cynic and the dreamer. We collect a few hints regarding their common aspirations – escape their dead end jobs, become famous, rich and get laid but let’s face it in their rather sedate time stream none of the above is gonna be happening.
So how is it these larger lads end up in a rift that threatens the very fabric of time and space itself, in the process becoming so famous they have fans who hold look-alike parties in their honour! And no, I’m not trying to up sell – that really happens… in the future… and they don’t even have to leave the pub to find out about it.
You’re thinking, “Oh, that’s a cheap way to do a movie, build just one set – a shabby pub interior – all stock standard bits and bobs and there’s the art direction budget cut in half, right?” Well, yes, but the fact that the location of the story is so constrained, our heroes firmly rooted in one place, it becomes almost impossible for these “imagineers” to navigate away from the inevitable consequences when they ….
OK, OK no Spoilers! Not in this time stream.
Let’s just say it’s delightful to see how the long argued paradoxes of time travel theory become intrinsic to the action, and new complexities are built on the shoulders of other complexities… like Cassie, a time traveling plumber… of sorts… with self confidence issues delightfully played by Anna Faris. She arrives just at the right moment to repair a leak in time and there we are, 30 minutes into the film and everything is fixed and it looks like Ray might even get laid!
The boy’s hopelessly under exercised hormones and a string of questionable choices result in even more temporal turmoils… and thanks to that we, the audience, have lots more fun!
Now, most time travel, or time manipulation movies, generally suck at the timey-wimey bits… really… do not get me started on “Looper” or “Source Code” – movies that relegate the clock conundrums to second or third plot place behind lots of scenes involving good guy / bad guy chasing games… you can throw Terminator in there as well.
There are of course exceptions – The Back to the Future movies, especially the second film, where the impact of future on past IS the driver of the plot and the challenges for the lead characters come from the impact of alternate futures and pasts on each other.
F-A-Q-A-T-T truly man’s up to the task and exuberantly throws itself into the mucky stuff of Grandfather and Chaos paradoxes and the really big issue, “Why you should absolutely not have sex with anyone while time traveling!”
For once, an SF film created by people who clearly understand the finer points of genre with which they are working.
The script is a little fire cracker, a slow burner to start but then exploding into a life of its own. There’s a great idea that starts playing with time before we’re really even thrust into it and that’s to have Ray tell of an experience in flash back, in the middle of what has, to that point, been a chronologically ordered plot – it works, it works very very well and is not at all confusing.
These playful story telling techniques makes for some internal treats relating to other time travel films… So, thank you writer Jamie Mathieson and director Gareth Carrivick for not treating your audience as if they are mentally defective or incapable of processing the paradoxes and thank you also for being creative enough to do this all with great wit and some really sharp dialogue.
High five to the three lead actors, especially Chris O’Dowd and see how his career has exploded since this film was made – – – Movies internationally like St Vincent (USA); The Saphires (Australia) and Calvary (Ireland) and the TV shows Moone Boy and the I.T. Crowd. Here, O’Dowd’s comic timing and recurring foot in mouth exchanges with Anna Faris prove he’s one of the best.
And Dean Lennox Kelly’s rendition of “Total Eclipse of the Heart” in the men’s loo proves that even the manliest of men really do have a pop diva inside them wanting to get out! The way the joke is played once and then revisited just doubles the fun.
So why and how did F-A-Q-A-T-T fall between the cracks? Well, the reviews were a little mixed… OK they were unkind…. with observations like “mildly diverting” and “feels like a stretched out TV pilot…” wow, thanks for killing the British film industry there guys… like those comments are gonna make anyone line up at the nearest multiplex box office.
So were the critics right? Like I care… but what do you think?
And just a note to those with short attention spans, this is not a long movie, under 90 minutes in fact but it is one of those movies that has more movie after the movie so pay attention.
(review text © Greg Punch, 2017)
Production company (review):
Film “Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel” Producers:
Justin Anderson Smith
Dean Lennox Kelly
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“Danse Macabre – Big Hit 1”
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“The Land of Make Believe” written by Andy Hill and Pete Sinfield.
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From the sound track of Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel
“The Land of Make Believe” Instrumental performed by The Fizz.
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– Review by Phil Wilding / Empire Magazine…
– Review by Kevin Pocock / Den of G..
– Review by Jane Crowther / Total Film
(warning, she absolutely hated this film!)
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