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Review: How to Build a Time Machine

July 15, 2016

By John Corrado

★★★★ (out of 4)

How to Build a Time Machine PosterI have always been fascinated by time travel, both the way it is used in movies and other stories, as well as the actual possibilities of being able to move along the space-time continuum.  I have also always loved building models and collecting movie memorabilia, to remind me of experiences that I’ve had.

Directed by Jay Cheel, who also gave us the 2011 standout Beauty Day, the deeply affecting documentary How to Build a Time Machine perfectly tapped into my longtime fascinations with both making things and time travel.  This is one of the most resonant and thought provoking movie experiences of the year, evoking profound reflection in the audience.

Rob Niosi is a former animator who has spent years obsessively building a full size replica of the time machine from the H.G. Wells classic, to remind him of being a kid and seeing the 1960 film in a theatre for the first time with his father.  These are the bittersweet intentions behind the costly art project, allowing him to reflect upon his own past.  Ronald Mallett has devoted his life to studying physics and black holes and how they relate to the real life mechanics of time travel, even reaching breakthroughs with lasers and light, dreaming of a way to reunite with his beloved father who died of a heart attack when he was young, forever changing the course of his life.

Their stories come together beautifully in How to Build a Time Machine, as the film becomes a poignant exploration of learning to live with regret and accept past mistakes, while also ruminating on the real life possibilities of altering time.  The film explores how time travel into the future is a clear possibility at this point, but travelling into the past is both less feasible and carries far greater ramifications, becoming a more divisive topic in the scientific community.

Right from the haunting opening sequence, showing thousands of people embarking upon the annual winter solstice pilgrimage to an ancient religious site in Ireland where they go to reconnect with rituals of the past, this is a contemplative experience that allows us to reflect upon the way time passes in our own lives.  The subjects also reflect upon how movies themselves can provide a form of time travel, and are powerful tools that allow us to capture memories and relive moments from the past, which is why we forge such strong connections to them.

The entire film is beautifully shot and seamlessly edited together, featuring several perfectly done montages and a soundtrack that includes some of the best ever uses of the songs “Forever Young” and “Girl From the North Country,” which both play prominently in the film.  Building towards an inspiring final scene, How to Build a Time Machine is entertaining, deeply moving and also incredibly thought provoking, like all great movies about time travel should be.

How to Build a Time Machine is playing over the next three nights at The Royal in Toronto.  Tickets and showtimes can be found right here.

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