This film came out of nowhere for me and completely floored me. I was expecting just another sci-fi, time bending narrative, and instead was simply entranced by this engaging, original, provocative, downright stunning film from Van Dormael.
It is a film with an unrelenting structure, bending time and our perception of it in delightful ways. A man lying in a hospital bed reflects upon his choices, and we see the various threads of his past unfold in tandem, his life chosen among three wives lived simultaneously through the retelling of the tale. We see categorically how each choice has different effects depending on the effects of those choices that come before, and this cascading of loves and lives becomes a bewildering yet never overwhelming feast of insightful fiction.
This is a (relatively) big budget artfilm, an experimental web of a story that in less sure hands certainly could have become a torrid mess. With strong performances by all involved (Leto as the title character is great, but Toronto’s own Sarah Polley finally regains well deserved credibility after some truly terrible films like Splice) we have both an appealing character drama and ideas movie with few peers.
This is thought provoking without pretentiousness, full of ideas and passion that deserves a wide audience. I fear that many will be put off by what first appears to be a convoluted narrative, but giving oneself over to the film is a pleasure that’s not soon to be repeated.
Extraordinary, exemplary, a highlight of this year’s festival.