Aporia is an original, emotional take on time travel. Aside from a slow start and some technical flaws, it excels in minimalism and character development.
“There is no undo button.” A scientist and the inventor of a time machine doesn’t typically say this, but in Aporia, there really is no undo button. Isn’t that the purpose of time travel? In writer-director Jared Moshé’s latest sci-fi drama, that idea is explored at great lengths.
Sophie (Judy Greer) is a widow. She’s been bearing the weight of grief, long shifts at the hospital, and an increasingly rebellious (though simultaneously indifferent) daughter for eight months. After her husband Mal (Edi Gathegi) passed away in a drunk driving accident, Sophie struggled to pick up the pieces of her family. She finds a way to fix everything, through unlikely means. Aporia is at once a survey of widowhood and grief as well as a cautionary tale against the dangers of isolated time travel.
The film offers a unique take on the idea that if one minute thing is altered while time traveling, everything changes drastically in the present. The time machine in Aporia is not some massive, expensive wonder, but a pair of scientists’ surprisingly successful D.I.Y. project. Though Jabir (Payman Maadi) and Mal had worked on the project for years, only grief drove Jabir to use it. His invention can change isolated moments in time, but it comes at high cost. “This machine is a gun that can fire a bullet into the past,” Jabir says. “All we need is a target.”
The target they aim to hit, of course, is the accident that took Mal from Sophie. The risk Sophie agreed to undertake is that it could alter certain aspects of their present lives. (The rest of this paragraph contains minor spoilers!) Further, when they travel back in time, their experiences reflect those of the original timeline they left. This makes for a bridge between comedic naïveté and intense emotion. The film explores the effects of multiple attempts at time travel on a select few people. It further divulges what it would be like to have dinner with (literally) the people whose lives are affected by it.
Concerning technical filmmaking, Aporia excels. With Nicholas Bupp at the helm, Aporia’s cinematography is exceptional; Bupp uses space incredibly, especially in a few crucial and hard-hitting scenes about the immediate consequences of time travel. The crew approached the topic and depiction of time travel humbly and logically. Instead of sinking funds into CGI to digitally manufacture a foray into the quantum realm, they wield minimalism to their benefit. This dodges the risk of poorly used CGI as well as allowing them the opportunity to let the story take center stage.
All of the visual mastery in the film is accompanied by a fitting score, composed by H. Scott Salinas. It depicts the futurism of a sci-fi film while also eliciting emotion at the most opportune and dramatic moments. The only drawback to the film, technically, is the sound editing. Some of the line delivery was not edited well in post-production which resulted in moments when dialogue didn’t match the actors’ mouths. Barring that, however, the film is well-made and visually pleasing.
Perhaps one of the most realistic aspects of Aporia is that each character is affected and guided by grief. Whether a lead or supporting character, their decisions result from some loss they’ve experienced. I think that’s the kind of resonant quality that the film brings to an already popular sci-fi concept. Minimalistic style is paired with meaningful characterization everyone can relate to. I feel as if Mal’s death is a little rushed, and so the stakes regarding time travel are lost until around the midpoint of the film. By then, the stakes are more realized thanks to strong plot and character development. The film’s big plot twist is well-written and every bit as emotional as it needs to be.
At the end, everything Sophie was striving for comes at much more cost than she would have imagined. She’s faced with choices that could cause irreparable damage. As Mal claims, “it was so much easier when it was theory.”
Aporia may have a few shortcomings, but in all it is an emotional watch and an original take on time travel. The cast and crew shine in their contributions to a film that deserves widespread success.
Aporia will be available to watch on Digital, Blu-ray & DVD from September 12, 2023.