There are things that titles tell you. A title like “A Conversation with My Time Traveling Future Self” says “Expect science fiction comedy played against a hilarious relationship situation.” That’s what I had in my mind, and in the opening moments of this slickly-made eight minute shorts, it seems that’s the direction we’re being taken.
And then it’s not that kind of film. It’s something else entirely.
The story is a complex one, well simple for a time travel film, perhaps. A gentleman called Stan has developed a way to travel through time for limited periods, and the version from the future arrives just as he’s about to give up on cheating on his love. That’s the simple part. What follows is a conversation not only about what they’re doing in the moment, but on what’s going to happen, and the inevitability of it all. There’s a lot here about memory, about the way we carry around a version of the world that others might not. Each traveler carries a story, a story that they alone own and must reconcile with the reality of the world they wake up in.
Nothing changes, both Stans say, only the details.
One of the Stans knows the path of the relationship with his girlfriend, and why it means he has to keep going back into his lifestream. He’s trying to make his future self do things that he might not want to do, even though he knows it’s futile to try and change the future. The older traveler is trying to capture something, the ultimate intangible gift from the past.
Yeah, it’s that kind of film.
It takes a dramatic turn at the end, particularly in the way the two Stans interact with one another. One is injured, the other is clueless, and at first so is the audience. When it turns and everyone is enlightened, it becomes heartbreakingly good. The acting is pitch perfect, Bobby Campo does an excellent job playing both sides of the same coin in the pair of Stans. It’s a lot harder to play the same character who has two different sets of memories than you think. Campos had to come up not only with two different sets of emotional responses to the stimulus of the story, but had to come up with what DIDN’T change because of the situations.
The way it’s shot, with little in the way of loving close-ups and not nearly too many obvious splitscreens to play up the two of the same guy at once thing, is gorgeous. Not overly-slick, though the opening shots might give you the impression that you’re about to see something that’s made with loving camera-glide. With the brief tinge of voice-over and the camerawork, I was first put in mind of a Steven Soderbergh film, but it didn’t stay that way, which I think is for the best. It’s got the slickness in the way some of the best short films do, but there’s nothing showy about it save for the script, which is so smart and dead-on with its timing. It’s as good a short as you’ll find in the SciFi genre.
This is a film that turns you around, gives you one thought, set the table for you, then serves you something you completely don’t expect. It’s a marvelous bit of writing and a fine piece of filmmaking.