I'm a big fan of hard sci-fi, science fiction that deals mainly with the speculative nature of the ideas within the story instead of mixing in too much of other, more mainstream genres in order to increase mass appeal.
Most examples of this genre exists within literature because printing books doesn't cost nearly as much as producing films and the authors can develop the deep philosophies behind their ideas in a truly adult fashion without having to worry about how much it would cost to visualize the universes they created.
It's hard to put together a hard sci-fi film project without considering how a large budget that might be necessary to visualize its ambitious ideas can be justified. Even the most artistically credible investor would expect a return on their investment. That's why mixing science fiction with more mainstream forms of entertainment, action, thriller, martial arts, etc… is usually the name of the game.
If you want to find out how hard it really is to get any large-budget, truly subversive and intellectual science-fiction film off the ground, watch the excellent documentary Jodorowsky's Dune, about surrealist master Alejandro Jodorowsky's failed attempt to transfer Frank Herbert's opus to the silver screen. Unfortunately, we all know how that one turned out (Cough, David Lynch's worst film, cough).
Sometimes filmmakers find creative ways of composing science-fiction stories without the need for expensive special effects, letting them explore the complex ideas within the narrative without having to rely on extensive action or martial arts sequences.
A mostly successful time travel tale from Canada, I'll Follow You Down uses next to no special effects in order to bring the story of an obsessive scientist (Haley Joel Osment back from his acting hiatus) who wants to use his father's time machine in order to bring him back and "correct" his previous miserable twelve years.
You see, Erol's (Osment) father Gabe (Dark City's Rufus Sewell), disappeared without a trace when Erol was only eleven. Twelve years later, Erol's scientist grandfather Sal (Victor Garber) discovers that Gabe in fact invented a time machine and went back to 1946 to meet Albert Einstein, never to return because of a mugging gone tragically wrong. Erol and Sal try to rebuild the time machine so they can bring Gabe back to the year 2000 and erase the last twelve years full of the pain that was created via Gabe's disappearance.
The direction by Richie Mehta is fairly flat and can be lifeless at times. His screenplay suffers from structure issues where the second act takes a long time to get going and the third act is dealt with too swiftly. He also has an unhealthy penchant for blatant melodrama, which might derive from the straight dramas he directed in India, but a more dry approach might have served him better here.
If one were to take out the science-fiction elements and treated this story as a family drama about the disappearance of a father, the film would end up as a fairly shameless and instantly forgettable melodrama.
However, where I'll Follow You Down truly shines is when it's dealing with the philosophical ramifications of Erol's mission. It creates a tangible and identifiable conflict within Erol's relationship with his girlfriend Grace (A terrific Susanna Fournier), who's afraid that if the last twelve years are corrected, she might not end up with the man she loves.
A pregnancy element complicates things further. Will Erol be essentially aborting his own baby by bringing his father back? It's a shame that a last minute plot convenience during the second act break sucks all the tension out of this intriguing narrative choice.
I'll Follow You Down's 1080p presentation is always crisp and clean without any significant video noise. I couldn't find many technical details about the film's shoot but I'd bet that it was photographed using digital cameras. It has that sleek digital look that becomes more obvious if you're watching on a giant screen. The drab, almost monochrome palette that dominates the first two acts, probably in order to visualize Erol's depression, are thankfully replaced with bright colors that truly pop during the third act.
Two tracks are offered, 5.1 DTS HD and 2.0 Stereo. Apart from a brief booming sound effects used during the time travel sequences, the 5.1 track usually sticks to the center channel for dialogue while the subdued score take over the rest of the front channels from time to time. It's a clean sound presentation but you wouldn't be missing much if you viewed it on Stereo coming from your TV speakers.
Behind The Scenes: This title is kind of a misrepresentation since this 12-minute feature focuses solely on the film's score. Some nice shots of the orchestra preparing to record and some comments on the score from the filmmakers can be found, but nothing special to see here overall.
Deleted Scenes: We get three insignificant deleted scenes that would have added to the film's already bloated first two acts.
Trailers: Apart from the film's trailer, we get trailers for McCanick and Very Good Girls.
I'll Follow You Down is kind of a disappointment in execution, especially considering the possibilities of such an intriguing premise. But it's also engaging enough to recommend to hard sci-fi fans, as long as you don't mind the melodrama.
Oktay Ege Kozak is a film critic and screenwriter based in Portland, Oregon. He also writes for The Playlist, The Oregon Herald, and Beyazperde.com