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Things Will Be Different Review: Twisted Time Travel

A character holds a torchlight in the dark in the film Things Will Be Different

Felker’s creativity, accompanied by the film’s flawless execution and cast efforts, makes Things Will Be Different a festival best.

Every once in a while, I’ll come out of a festival viewing experience completely blown away by a feature’s writing, creativity, and what the filmmaker has been able to achieve visually on a smaller budget. This year, Things Will Be Different is that film and undeniably one of SXSW’s standouts. The suspenseful sci-fi thriller, written by Michael Felker, who also directs in his feature debut, shows a promising future for the Huntsville, Alabama native.  

From the moment Things Will Be Different starts, the mystery surrounding the narrative and the film’s subjects instantly draws you in. Siblings Joseph (Adam David Thompson) and Sidney (Riley Dandy) meet at the local diner. The pair have just robbed a bank, though they appear weirdly calm. As the sound of police sirens closes in, they start walking through the woods towards an isolated farmhouse. Before the robbery took place, one of Joseph’s bar customers gifted him a book full of random instructions. 

Supposedly, if somebody carries out the order of instructions and immediately enters a closet within the farmhouse, it unlocks the ability to time travel. The siblings oblige, allowing them to travel to a different time period, evade the police, and bide their time. Once the search for the pair dies off, they can return to the present day and escape with the money. Still, not everything is what it seems. Two weeks later, when Joseph and Sidney attempt to return to the life they once knew, a mysterious stranger prevents them from leaving.

Things Will Be Different is not only a two-hander film but also set in one location. Depending on a film’s execution, these factors can be a blessing or a curse. Thankfully, Felker’s strong script and immaculate directing bring his passion project to life, and at no point during the film’s runtime does the story feel dull. The ominous nature of the time travel accompanied by unfamiliar strangers introduced into the story and the farmhouse’s tension-filled setting makes the film gripping from start to finish.

In addition, Thompson and Dandy’s performances are vital to the film’s success and quality. As Sidney and Joseph are stuck in time together and Things Will Be Different is so reliant on dialogue between the two, the feature wouldn’t have worked if the character’s relationship wasn’t believable. However, I can honestly say I was so invested in their dynamic and what might happen between them next. They sell the whole “I’ve got your back, you’ve got mine” sibling bond, though the film’s unpredictable narrative plants a nagging seed of doubt in your mind as to whether either of them has an ulterior motive.

two characters hold rifles in the dark in the film Things Will Be Different
Things Will Be Different (Last Life Films & XYZ Films / SXSW 2024)

The cinematography in Things Will Be Different enhances the storyline and feeds into the film’s thriller elements. Camera close-ups of the siblings and objects signify the importance of every intricate detail within the narrative. The uncertainty only adds to the dread even when the blanks are yet to be filled in. Though the farmhouse itself is stunning, wide shots encapsulate the acreage surrounding the residence, and the vast, empty space signifies how far removed Joseph and Sidney are from the present day. The trees are bare, and the outside landscape is lifeless. The inside of the home is fully decked out with furniture, rugs, and a fully stocked fridge. However, the house has clearly been without inhabitants for years, and the lack of context behind the family who used to live there makes the storyline even more enticing.

Things Will Be Different also impresses with flawless pacing. No scene or part of the story feels rushed, and every event has a purpose. The feature plays out as a slow burn and gradually feeds you pieces of information, never giving too much away at once. Felker wants his viewers to be wholly submerged before revealing the enigma behind the time-traveling closet, and the path taken before uncovering the mystery is a satisfying journey.

Things Will Be Different will be screened at SXSW on March 11-15, 2024. Read our SXSW reviews and our list of films to watch at SXSW 2024!

Things Will Be Different Clip (Last Life Films)
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