Fantasia Fest Review: SYNCHRONICITY

Jacob Gentry follows up THE SIGNAL with a time-splintering sci-fi picture.

"Time is a great teacher that eventually kills all of its students."

In his third feature film after Last Goodbye and The Signal, writer (with Alex Orr) and director Jacob Gentry takes on time itself through physicist Jim Beale (Chad McKnight), who is working punishing hours with very little sleep as he barrels his way toward a discovery that could change the fabric of our universe.

Beale's assisted by two friends, also scientists (AJ Bowen as Chuck and Scott Poythress as Matty), and he's financially backed by the powerful Klaus Meisner (genre legend Michael Ironside), but it isn't until he meets Brianne Davis' Abby that Beale's invention - a wormhole-generator that folds space-time - seems like it just might work. Or has it already worked? An unusual dahlia appears out of nowhere, and Jim begins to realize that he might already be in the middle of a much bigger story. How many dahlias are there, how many timelines? How many Jims?

Synchronicity has some superb inspirations - the intricately nested timelines of Primer, the dusty, DIY science fiction of Alien, the vintaged futuristic anywhere city of Blade Runner and Dark City - but it's also very much its own thing. Abby, for one, is a character who feels like a trope, the femme fatale archetype, and is revealed to be a far more complicated and compelling character. Is she using Jim or protecting him? A little of both, and also neither, because Abby has motivations that have nothing to do with Jim or her sugar-daddy Klaus. She's a singular character, and Davis gives her a lot of life.

Jim himself isn't quite as interesting. McKnight turns in a great performance as a scientist driven by ambition and stymied by love, but he's a character we've seen before. Meisner, too, but who's going to complain about Michael Ironside playing a sinister corporate heavyweight in a great genre picture? Chuck and Matty both serve very effectively as the film's comic relief, but despite the high stakes and the drum-tight tension, Synchronicity doesn't require much comic relief. It's just naturally a funny, very entertaining movie, a dark thriller that's never dour.

The score, by Ben Lovett, is extremely groovy, and the film's opening credits are cool and spacey in the way of an '80s arcade game. This is a very stylish movie, one that looks much more expensive than it probably is. Gentry edited the film himself, and that might be Synchronicity's biggest achievement, crafting a coherent emotional narrative out of such a fractured and complex storyline.

Synchronicity is the kind of movie that will have you lingering in the lobby afterwards, asking questions and forming theories about the film's many revelations. It's one to see twice, at least, and I'm already looking forward to my second go at this world.