THE INFINITE MAN

Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Hugh Sullivan

Stars: Josh McConville, Hannah Marshall, Alex Dimitriades.

This is the second local production in as many months to feature time travel as a key narrative device. And I found the quirky The Infinite Man to be far more entertaining and enjoyable than the recent sci-fi head turning Predestination, especially when it comes to dealing with the paradoxes of time travel. It seems to have an internal logic that works. It also seems to have more energy and humour, and likeable characters. Like Groundhog Day and Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind before it, and more recently Richard Curtis’ delightful About Time, the concept here is used as a plot device to kick start an enjoyable but unusual romantic comedy.

Dean (Josh McConville, from The Turning, etc) is a nerdy engineer whose relationship with the more free spirited Lana ended badly a couple of years ago. Keen to try and make a new start and rekindle their relationship Dean invites Lana back to the hotel where they once spent an idyllic holiday. But now the hotel is deserted, and the carefully orchestrated weekend begins to go badly. The unexpected arrival of the arrogant and sleazy Terry (Alex Dimitriades, from The Slap, etc), Lana’s former boyfriend and Olympic javelin thrower, further ruins the mood.

Dean spends the better part of the next year brooding over what went wrong. He constructs a time travel device hoping that he can revisit that weekend again and repair the relationship with Lana. But something goes awry and he finds himself trapped in a temporal loop. There is something of Groundhog Day in the central conceit of Dean trying to repair his relationship by reliving the same moment over and over with subtle variations, and learning from the mistakes of the past.

The presence of four other incarnations of himself, and a couple of other Lanas from the future, further complicate matters. It’s a bit like Michael Keaton dealing with multiple versions of himself in Multiplicity from a few years ago. But first time filmmaker Hugh Sullivan also seems to have been inspired by the spirit of those classic screwball comedies of yesteryear.

Sullivan makes the most of his limited budget, and stretches his meagre resources effectively. There are only three actors on screen, playing multiple versions of themselves, and the action is confined to a single location, but somehow that doesn’t seem to matter. Instead of using the green screen process for those scenes when Dean is interacting with another version of himself, Sullivan has resorted to old fashioned techniques like using body doubles and multiple reshoots, but the result is just as convincing.

McConville brings a nicely intense edge, a downbeat charm and a touch of self-deprecating humour to his performance as the nerdy, hapless romantic desperate to restore his relationship with Lana. He captures Dean’s quirky and anxious nature well. Hannah Marshall (from tv series Packed To The Rafters, etc) delivers a nicely nuanced performance as the patient Lana, and she essentially plays it straight. Dimitriades is wonderfully sleazy and cocky and his droll performance is spot on. The three performers develop a solid rapport that enhances the script.

The film looks good thanks to the cinematography of Marden Dean, who also shot the beautiful and haunting Fell, and the remote location adds a surreal quality to the material. The Infinite Man is a charming and enjoyable comedy, a genre that Australian filmmakers tend not to do very well. Although there are a couple of patches when it seems to be on the verge of losing the audience with its repetitive nature, the film manages to win them over again with some big laughs and its playful nature. The film has proven itself something of an audience favourite on the film festival circuit.

More importantly The Infinite Man is an assured debut that stamps Sullivan as a filmmaker to watch in the future.

★★★☆

 

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