Probably the riskiest thing you can do is send me to review a time travel movie. I’m sensitive about the science surrounding it, and absolutely detest the amount of paradoxes and reliance on linear concepts of time that is prevalent in everything we see, from ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’ to ‘Looper’.
So, imagine my surprise when one of the first scenes in ‘Dimensions’ did the exactly the opposite of what I hate. Within the first 10 minutes, they explain time travel by using a concept put forward by the novella, ‘Flatlands’. This story probably sounds really familiar to you, as it was the story that Carl Sagan famously drew upon to explain how time and space worked. And that, my friends, makes me happy. You see, time travel should work in multiple dimensions. After all, if you were to go back in time and change something, the old universe wouldn’t go away (or your family wouldn’t fade in a photograph, I’m looking at you ‘Back to the Future’). Another universe would simply split and you would end of in the alternative one. Your former universe would just carry merrily along.
What I’m trying to convey here, without giving any spoilers away, is that ‘Dimensions’ is a time travel movie like no other. As a reviewer, it should not surprise you that that was one of my favorite elements of the movie.
But really, ‘Dimensions’ has so much more to recommend it, though I think the beauty of it tops the list. Every scene is gorgeously shot, without a single image, be it in the foreground or the background, being so gauche as to be arbitrary. Everything is eye catching, from the way each scene was shot, to the design of the set, to the movement of the camera. Each detail is so meticulous that I can only imagine what new worlds will open up the next time I watch the movie. And yes, there will be a next time.
The film’s high level of aesthetics makes sense, though. Sloan U’ren, the director, worked on art direction in movies like ‘Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince’ and set design for ‘Being John Malkovich’. Her obvious eye for detail comes out in every piece of film.
The acting in the movie is flawless, though special praise should be given to Camilia Rutherford (‘Rome’, ‘Gosford Park’), who played the mother, Jane. Her ability to age with her character was so graceful and believable that I can scarcely find words to describe how flawlessly done it was. She was immensely capable of handling a range of subtle and obtuse lines, and consequently was my absolute favorite part of the movie. All of you should wish to have a mother as witty, and understanding as Jane.
Of course, the caliber of talent in the film is remarkable for Indie science fiction film, and even the lesser known actors brought characters that had some potential of falling flat to life. Henry Lloyd-Hughes, whom some of you may recognize as Roger Davies from ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’, plays an obsessed Stephen, who uses up all his energies to find a way back to his childhood in order to save his childhood sweetheart. The guilt-stricken Conrad, played by Sean Hart, follows Stephen and his reckless path without question as he feels responsible for driving Stephen into his obsession with time travel. Throw in Olivia Llewellyn as Annie, who has to make sense of these two tragic characters, and you have talented actors with a wealth of complicated interactions they can fully indulge in. And really, they do it fantastically, which is hard to believe as the movie was filmed in a measly 4 weeks.
As for the plot, it’s filled with questions that have answers hidden in the silence, and it respects the audiences intelligence. Unfortunately, that means when a line does more tell than show, it can be very jarring. The one sticking point, when it comes to the story, however, was what seemed to be a paper-thin emotional plot ruled by irrational obsession and somewhat unnecessary love triangle and sometimes unexpected fits of drama that seems inappropriate in time and place (Stephen confessing his love directly after a family member disappears from his life forever come to mind the most readily). It also suffers from a whiplash contradiction at the end of the movie, where the premise that all possible timelines exist is changed to them agreeing that maybe they can change the future… which in dimensional time travel doesn’t make sense because changing the future actually only lands you in different dimension. However, ‘Dimensions’ firm grasp in metaphor, allusion, and consistent internal symbolism (ranging from masks the characters use to open their minds to other dimensions, to the well that marks the tragedy of the story) more than makes up for it.
For a first time full-length film for both director and writer, ‘Dimensions’ far exceeds expectations. Shot in a beautifully post-Edwardian world that’s easy to lose oneself in, and engaging in a concept of time that is new and refreshing, I recommend seeing this film.
The movie should be available on Video on Demand and can be purchased here.