The Infinite Man (2014) is an Australian sci-fi comedy which did not make much of a dent at the local box office. It has however created a reasonable amount of buzz amongst those who managed to catch it, even popping up on some best of 2014 lists over the past couple of weeks.
Immediately the film makes no bones about the fact that it is a love story first and foremost. We meet Dean and Lana, celebrating an anniversary at an outback motel. Or tyring to anyway. Dean is a great character, a lovesick, very nerdy and slightly neurotic scientist. He is desperately trying to have the perfect weekend with the love of his life, meticulously setting out a weekend of traditional Dutch music, massage, tantric sex and a whole lot more. The focus from this man, whose work is bound up in the logic of the universe that surrounds him, is very much on the meticulous control of variables rather than the spontaneous moments that arise with the one you love. This attribute, perhaps the strongest of his character, leads to an inevitable breakdown in the success of the anniversary weekend and sends the film spiralling down a time travel road, as Dean repeatedly attempts to do-over the weekend more successfully.
Occasionally time travel films would be better without the time travel. And that’s kind of how I feel about this film. I was totally onboard with the quirky love story vibe of this film. But once the time travelling starts, it just lost me a bit. It’s by no means bad, but it just slows the film down a lot in a storytelling sense. The time travel elements allow the themes of the film – living in the moment, changing the past, love, and the ability to let go – to be examined in greater depth. Unfortunately for me though, this enhanced thematic depth came at the expense of narrative enjoyment. Whilst initially the approach to the time travel captured my interest, with different versions of all the characters trying to avoid running into each other, it quickly became too slow, bogged down away from the emotional heart that had been so well established.
There are only three characters in the film and they are all good, especially the lead two. Alex Dimitriades is excellent as always as Terry, Lana’s ex-boyfriend who is basically a caricature to drive the plot along. Given the skill that Dimitriades possesses as a comedic actor though, his character does not feel tacked on or annoying as a narrative device. Dean, played by Josh McConville, is the most interesting of the characters. He is adeptly set up early on as a man whose (considerable) intelligence seeps into and generally overwhelms every aspect of his life. This is the constant battle for Dean throughout the entire film. Despite being relatively young, Lana (Hannah Marshall) seems weary with the world and especially the men who surround her. She is sick of Dean’s lack of spontaneity and the oppressiveness of trying to be with someone so rooted in the scientific. Despite the small cast, the film never seems empty, helped along by the fact the material is filmed with a light tough and all three of the actors are really good with what they have.
You can see that this was a low-budget film, but director Hugh Sullivan and his crew have done an excellent job of utilising what was available to them. The isolated location gives it a distinctively Australian flavour, even if perhaps initially it does not feel like it suits the story. But the story grows into the location and by the end of the film it feels a more natural fit. Once the characters are established it effectively functions as a blank slate for the material and actors to weave their magic on. The sparseness is in fact a benefit, as it focuses the viewer’s attention in on the strengths of the film that are not dictated by budget. Script wise, The Infinite Man is a strange beast. It is a truly funny script, but one without any real jokes in it. Rather the observational style, especially around the frustrations and challenges of relationships, will have you chuckling along. The editing is particularly sharp in the film, hinting at the time travel aspects in the first act and then bringing them to life later on.
Verdict: In the end, The Infinite Man is one of those films that I wanted to like more than I did. As a quirky rom-com with a scientist lead character the type of which is rare in this kind of film, there is definitely plenty to enjoy. It’s just that the time travel that dominates the narrative slows the narrative flow of the film more than I would have liked. Stubby of Reschs
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