July 17, 2014 Leave a comment
One year on from an apparently perfect anniversary, Dean (Josh McConville) and Lana (Hannah Marshall) return to the same hotel only to find it abandoned and in ruin. Lana shrugs it off, more than happy to go to the beach instead, but Dean — who had planned on recreating their itinerary down to the finest detail — insists that they stay and make it work. It’s a disastrous decision that leaves Lana in the arms of ex-boyfriend Terry (Alex Dimitriades) and Dean desperate to win her back. So desperate, in fact, that he builds a time machine, and one year later invites Lana back to unveil his creation. Over the course of multiple visits to the past, however, the hotel becomes crowded with Deans, Lanas and even Terrys as they compete for control of the past.
Unlike About Time, Richard Curtis’ 2013 timey-wimey rom-com in which Domnhall Gleeson accidentally retconned his relationship with Rachel McAdams (and proceeded to groom her anew), writer-director Hugh Sullivan does not expect us to root for McConville’s overly possessive Dean. He’s a tragic hero, of sorts, but while you may occasionally sympathise with his nostalgic pangs you never for a moment will for him to succeed. The fact that you feel anything but uncomfortable about his attempts to avoid change and stunt the development of his own relationship is testament to the comedic talents of McConville, who deftly tackles the often nuanced differences between temporally distinct but visually indistinguishable Deans.
The rest of the cast are great too, and even though there are really only three actors the film never feels like it is lacking in characters. The contrast is clearest in the two iterations of Dimitriades’ Terry, who is introduced as a disgraced, down-on-his-luck Olympic athlete but is later revamped as a suave businessman who is very much in control of his future. It’s Marshall who impresses most, however, despite having the straightest role of the three; her arc may not be as pronounced as those of her male co-stars, but she is by some margin the easiest to empathise with. Never just the subject of Dean’s affections (and manipulations), she soon takes on a larger role in the time-travelling shenanigans to push for a say in her own future.
Sullivan has clearly put a lot of effort into working out the temporal mechanics of his movie, and right up to the last ten minutes or so manages to convince you that it all just about hangs together. His film is smart without being ineffable, funny without being ridiculous and emotional without being sentimental. It might not be quite as thrilling as Triangle, that other Australia-set paradox, but neither is it as frustrating. Unfortunately, however, Sullivan arguably pushes his story a twist too far, as by the end you have little option but to take it on trust that it all makes sense. That said, the cast are so compelling, the themes so strong and the setting so striking that you don’t mind having to take just that little bit extra on faith.
The Infinite Man is a meticulously planned, confidently performed and imaginatively staged that strikes an impressive balance not only between romance and comedy, but science fiction too. At a film festival otherwise lacking in Antipodean entries, Sullivan’s film does the country proud.