Blu-ray Review: Time Freak (2018)

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Writer-director Andrew Bowler has been making movies about righting past wrongs since his very first IMDb credited short back in 1995.

Switching gears to zero in on interpersonal versus criminal wrongdoing both in and beyond his 2002 feature filmmaking debut — similar to the way that his protagonist in both the Academy Award nominated 2011 short film Time Freak and its titular 2018 full-length adaptation discover an inventive way to make things right — Bowler managed to do the same for his favorite theme with Time.

Believing that nothing focuses your mind like a broken heart, after his beautiful girlfriend Debbie (Sophie Turner) breaks up with him, Stillman (Asa Butterfield) gets to work. Using a formula he came up with on the day they first met to create what anyone who's ever been dumped desires most, the physics wunderkind invents a time machine to give him a second chance to fix his mistakes.

Having laid out a timeline of their entire relationship complete with smiley faces and red dots to differentiate the good times from the bad, Stillman sets out to repair every one of his blunders with a little help from his goofy yet surprisingly wise best friend Evan, played by Skyler Gisondo (who frequently steals the film away from the leads).

A clever idea brought affably to life, Time Freak benefits from a game group of actors and sharp editing, which boosts the film's comedic energy and pacing, particularly in a playful scene that finds Evan stuck in an elevator from hell while Stillman relives one of his favorite moments from his relationship again and again.

Yet while it's surprisingly effective as a whole, Bowler's script begins to lose its momentum midway into the second half, due as much to repetition as to the fact that the characters themselves are nowhere near as interesting as the overall premise. Likewise, with Stillman — the film's most one-dimensional character — running the show from start to finish, it becomes noticeably apparent that the others have very little agency.

Saying a lot for the chemistry and skill of its cast that the film's character problems were easy to overlook for so long, fortunately Time's Stillman-centric narrative hinders Evan only slightly because he has the ability to engage with the lead on a more knowing level as he watches his friend become self-centered and obsessive.

However this leaves the already underwritten, slightly daffy Debbie (and regrettably the talented Sophie Turner) with nothing to do but react to the latest whim and/or variation of whatever it is that Stillman's trying to fix as little more than an idealized Romcom Manic Pixie Dream Girl.

Still a valuable reminder to everyone — especially fellow overly analytical, apologetic Type A overachievers — that regret and respectful disagreement are healthy and necessary parts of life, despite some clunks in Time Freak's final act, Bowler's energetic film earns far more happy faces than red dots.

Arriving on Lionsgate Blu-ray with an insightful commentary track and making-of featurette, the highlight of the newly released title is the inclusion of the original imaginative Oscar nominated short, which not only started it all but also gave Bowler the time (machine?) and second chance he was looking for to make the big screen version of the film right.

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