Release Date(s)2023 (September 12, 2023)
Studio(s)Armian Pictures/Soapbox Films/Paramount Pictures (Well Go USA Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: A-
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: B-
Time travel has always been a fascinating subject for science fiction films. The notion of being able to manipulate time at will offers endless possibilities. Edge of Tomorrow, The Terminator, The Time Machine, and the enormously popular Back to the Future series have all provided interesting spins on the theme. In Aporia, a time machine becomes a means to reverse the devastating loss of a loved one.
For the past several months, Sophie Judy Greer) has been grieving the death of her husband, Malcolm (Ed Gathegi), who was killed by a drunk driver. Now a single mother, she struggles with working long shifts in a hospice facility while pursuing a court battle with the driver who killed her husband and caring for pre-teen daughter Riley (Faith Herman), who also is having difficulties. She has withdrawn from the life she led before her father’s death, skipping classes, abandoning all the pursuits she previously enjoyed, and arguing constantly with her mother.
Sophie and Riley still share an affection for Malcolm’s closest friend, Jabir (Payman Maadi). Jabir, too, is grieving a great loss. His entire family was killed by a dictatorial government in his native country. He yearns for a way to bring them back.
Jabir and Malcolm both were physicists and had bonded over their love for science. In a spare bedroom at his home, Jabir has been constructing a time machine and Malcolm spent many hours helping his friend with the project. The machine actually works now, but not in the expected way. It can’t send a person back in time. However, it can take someone’s life in the past. Jabir approaches Sophie with the idea of using the machine to prevent the accident that killed her husband, and several other victims, by killing the driver before that fatal day.
Sophie is initially skeptical but is finally convinced that the machine—which looks like a jumble of motors, computers, wires, switches, car batteries, and monitors—can do what Jabir claims. But is she willing to commit murder in order to bring her husband back to life? After discussing the plan with Jabir and balancing her morality against the horrible toll Malcolm’s death has taken on her and her daughter, she decides to let Jabir feed the data into his machine that will bring Malcolm back. It works.
But, as in many previous time-travel movies, tampering with the fabric of time causes unforeseen consequences. Though neither Sophie nor Jabir go back in time, their action has upset a time/space equilibrium and one person’s death and Malcolm’s resurrection are not the only results. As in the short story The Monkey’s Paw, there’s a dark side to dealing with elements usually beyond the realm of human control.
Director Jared Moshe, who also wrote the screenplay, sets Aporia apart from many similarly-themed sci-fi pictures by establishing his own rules for the time machine. The premise is science fiction but the heart of the film is the conflict of pitting love, anguish, and grief against morality and personal responsibility. Sophie’s motivated not as a scientist testing the boundaries but as a grieving widow experiencing deep pain at the sudden death of her husband and the terrible toll it has taken on her daughter. That’s what drives the film.
Sophie’s decision to join Jabir in bringing back Malcolm isn’t rash. She and Jabir discuss the ethics of trading one life for another. Sophie yearns to have Malcolm back but has to convince herself that, in the scheme of things, the return of her husband and the death of a drunk before he can kill Malcolm are reasonable. Neither Jabir or Sophie are mad, power-hungry, or selfish. In fact, at one point after Malcolm is back, Sophie and Malcolm learn that Jabir subsequently used the machine to save 21 lives and are appalled that Jabir did this without consulting them.
Filmed in various locations in and around Los Angeles, Aporia has a low budget look but offers excellent performances by the three leads. Greer, in particular, expresses a range of emotions from depression through elation and is thoroughly convincing.
The dictionary defines “aporia” as an irresolvable internal contradiction or logical disjunction in a theory. With the changes the machine generates, there are others, some minor, some intense, that weren’t wanted and couldn’t be predicted. This is how director Moshe creates suspense. We know there will be revelations, but we have no idea from which direction they will emanate.
Aporia was captured by director of photography Nick Bupp digitally using Arri Alexa cameras, finished at a 2K Digital Intermediate, and presented in the widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Clarity is very good overall, with details such as the intricate parts of Jabir’s time machine, patterns in clothing, stubble and facial hair on the male actors, and objects in Sophie’s house well delineated. Interiors tend to be muted in terms of the color palette, perhaps to suggest Sophie’s grieving. In a birthday party scene, primary and pastel colors pop under the bright sunlight. A brief view of the Grand Canyon is impressive.
The soundtrack is English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. English SDH subtitles are an available option. Dialogue is clear and distinct in a film that depends largely on conversations to tell its story. The time machine doesn’t produce dramatic sounds as might be expected. It’s a fairly quiet device, which makes sense since Jabir has been tinkering with it for years in his apartment. Excessive or unusual noises would surely have alarmed the neighbors.
Bonus materials on the Blu-ray release from Well Go USA include the following:
- Behind-the-Scenes Featurette (18:32)
- Bad City (1:54)
- Forgotten Experiment (2:28)
- Warhorse One (2:21)
- Trailer (2:27)
Behind-the-Scenes Featurette – Director Jared Moshe outlines the plot of Aporia and talks about each of the main characters. The film deals with repercussions of altering the past with rippling effects that touch on other lives and events. The three main characters are decent, well-meaning individuals. Though it has a science-fiction premise, the film is intended to be a love story. The main actors discuss their characters and what inspired them to be in the film. Most were attracted because the roles weren’t typical. Moshe had the idea of a machine that had the power to kill someone in the past. He explains the three rules of his time machine. With a small budget and only a 17-day shooting schedule, Moshe wanted to give the film a documentary-like vibe. All locations selected were in and around Los Angeles. He encouraged collaboration with the actors in order to explore all possibilities. Moshe was good at assessing which actors needed help with particular scenes. The machine was designed to look homemade. Footage shows the crew working to prepare scenes for filming, often in small spaces, which presented challenges. Moshe concludes the featurette with the comment, “We are a collection of memories.”
Director Jared Moshe explores the ethical dilemmas in Aporia by concentrating more on the characters than on the homemade time machine. The film insightfully and compassionately deals with cause and effect. It also considers priorities. Is it more important to dwell on what you have or can get, or what you are willing to give up? Aporia is a thoughtful, suspenseful film that takes a hard look at the complexities of human nature.
- Dennis Seuling