Film Review – I’ll Follow You Down
I'll Follow You Down
In I’ll Follow You Down, Marika (Gillian Anderson) says goodbye to her scientist husband Gabe (Rufus Sewell) at the Toronto airport, takes her son Erol home, and waits patiently for her spouse to come back from his trip to Princeton. Which he never does. He’s disappeared as if into thin air, and no amount of searching turns up even the slightest hint of where he’s gone. Marika eventually gets on with her life and becomes an art professor, but slips further and further into a despair she cannot quite get a hold of: forever questioning the fate of her husband. Erol (Haley Joel Osment) grows up – becoming a nurturer by necessity, and a math whiz by nature. He’s also had a life-long love affair with his neighbor Grace (Susanna Fournier), and we learn that they might be starting a family sooner rather than later.
Erol’s grandfather Sal (Victor Garber) has moved to Canada to be closer to Marika and has been going through some things he found in Gabe’s Princeton workspace. He thinks he has discovered what happened to his son-in-law, and finally tells Erol everything when he realizes he needs his grandson’s mathematical prowess to replicate the event. Turns out, Gabe successfully built a time machine and disappeared into the past; it’s Sal’s hypothesis that Gabe’s removal from his original timeline has created a new reality that should not exist. If they can go back into the past and stop Gabe from disappearing, then they can correct the events gone wrong and save his daughter from a lifetime of despair. At first Erol is completely on board, but then he realizes that the good things he has in this life may disappear if events revert back. He must decide which life is the one he wants to keep living.
Science fiction movies usually go one of two ways – giant spectacle filled with awesome effects but low on content or philosophical meditations that use sci fi concepts to explore ideas without the budget to go crazy. (Occasionally you get a combination of the two and you get awesomeness like The Matrix or Inception). I’ll Follow You Down is definitely in the low-budget/explore-ideas category, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a good place to be if you’ve got a great script. And writer/director Richie Mehta has about one-half of something interesting here. He’s got some great actors in Gillian Anderson, Rufus Sewell, and Victor Garber. To be perfectly honest, I could watch Gillian Anderson in just about anything. She’s good, and she chooses interesting material. I never know what I’m going to get, but I’m always eager to find out. And the basic idea of the film is sound: is there such a thing as a correct timeline? Is Gabe’s disappearance supposed to happen or should Erol go back and hit the reset button to make things turn out less painfully? And will the original timeline be as good as he hopes?
Unfortunately, the film does little more than raise the questions; it doesn’t really explore them. The final act of the film takes the easy way out, wraps everything up in a neat little package, and tries to remove any sense of ambiguity from the resolution. All of the important questions asked earlier in the film get swept away in favor of creating an ending meant to make the audience (and Erol) feel good. But it’s not satisfying, and I was left wanting something a little meatier to think about. It’s not a bad movie, but it doesn’t live up to the promise of the ideas it purports to be about.
There are also some problems with the portrayal of Erol that I think are rooted in the writing and not in Osment’s performance. He is best when being Erol-the-caretaker, nurturing his mother and Grace. His father’s disappearance has weakened Marika, but made Erol stonger and more caring. The character suffers though from “young genius in torment” syndrome. The time-travel technology in this film is crap, fyi, and Erol and Sal spend a lot of time talking about bullshit equations and suffering over their inability to solve them. Erol freaks out and pushes books off tables, has loud angsty moments, and ignores Grace in favor of his work. It’s all so very tired and cliché. It’s interesting watching Osment transition from child star to adult actor; I just wish this was written a little better in order to see what he can really do. Like I said before, this is not a bad movie, and there are reasons to see it. But there are some serious failures of imagination that take this from an interesting idea to a somewhat uninspiring final product.