HomeReviews‘Things Will Be Different’ Review: A Time-Travel Thriller With A Twist –...

‘Things Will Be Different’ Review: A Time-Travel Thriller With A Twist – Overlook Film Festival

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If 2024 is the year American voters will experience a sense of déjà vu at the ballot box, it’s also likely to go down as the year that fans of indie genre cinema will feel it at the box office. From Sundance to SXSW, a surprising number of films have had fun with the concept of time, whether in terms of history literally repeating itself (Timestalker, Omni Loop, Desert Road) or presenting new angles on the same set of events (Little Death, It’s What’s Inside, and, to a certain degree, even the animated kids film 10 Lives).

Exec-produced by filmmaker duo Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, and written-directed by their longtime editor Michael Felker, Things Will Be Different — as its title suggests — has an even more rarefied take, using time as a hiding place, a surreal and ingenious conceit that adds a creepy air of mystery to its otherwise solidly sci-fi scenario.

As is the case with Benson and Moorhead’s own projects, Felker’s film comes with a whole unseen backstory that could probably sustain a feature-length prequel: a brother and sister — Joseph (Adam David Thompson) and Sidney (Riley Dandy) — arrange to meet at a remote diner after carrying out a robbery of some kind. They need to lay low for a couple of weeks, and Joseph has been given the use of a safe house. “What’s the backup?” Sidney asks. “There is no backup,” he replies.

The sound of police sirens brings their rendezvous to a premature end, and so the duo head off to what seems to be an abandoned house on the edge of the nearby woods. As the law closes in, Joseph sets into motion an elaborate ritual that involves setting the time to ten past two on a pair of grandfather clocks and making a cryptic call on a dial-phone. Instantly, they are sent back to some unspecified time, perhaps the 1990s if the VHS tapes and CDs are an indicator. All they have to do, says Joseph, is hang tight for 14 days.

Sidney is missing her little girl but puts a brave face on it, counting down the hours and chewing over her family issues and a brief estrangement that separated the two when Sidney was at her lowest ebb. Joseph seems to enjoy this limbo time with her, with the underlying suggestion that main “thing” that will be different when they get back home is his duty of care towards her. After all, they have an easy rapport, and their matching, possibly (oc)cult wrist tattoos hint at a former, fairly intense closeness.

Clearly, however, that’s not what’s in store, and when the two-week period is up, they find that access to the portal back has mysteriously been sabotaged. Instructed to go to “the mill,” they find a private chapel and a desiccated corpse, which Joseph identifies as the woman who supplied him with the keys to the safe house. A sinister message is carved on to the altar: “You are in the grip of the vise. Give in or join them.”

Anyone even remotely acquainted with Benson and Moorhead’s work will know that the plot is about to thicken in ways that will never be fully reconciled, and that loose ends are part of the rich fabric of films like 2017’s The Endless and its 2019 follow-up Synchronic. Genre-wise, it starts to border on the supernatural, too, as Sidney becomes obsessed with the provenance of the house and its previous occupants. But all the way through, Thompson and Dandy keep it grounded, even when “the vise” offers to strike a deal with them: there are strangers coming, and if Joseph and Sidney kill them, they will be returned to their own time.

There’s obviously quite a lot to unpack in all that, and casual consumers of popcorn sci-fi will probably be overwhelmed by the avalanche of ideas here, not just in the story line but quirky little details like a Dictaphone that travels between time zones. Fortune favors the prepared, however, and those willing to get swept up and carried along by its playful Moebius-strip logic will be richly rewarded.

Title: Things Will Be Different
Director-screenwriter: Michael Felker
Cast: Adam David Thompson, Riley Dandy, Chloe Skoczen, Justin Benson, Sarah Bolger
Sales agent: XYZ
Running time: 1 hr 42 min

Content Source: deadline.com

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