Time Travel Thursday: Continuum (2013)
Time travel tropes6
Matthew Turner | On 30, Sep 2021
Director: Richie Mehta
Cast: Haley Joel Osment, Victor Garber, Gillian Anderson, Rufus Sewell, John Paul Ruttan, Susanna Fournier
Where to see Continuum online in the UK: IMDb TV
Has Boss Level whetted your appetite for more time travel titilation? Transport yourself no further than Time Travel Thursday, our column devoted to time travel movies. It’s on Thursday.
Written and directed by Richie Mehta, this 2013 time travel drama (released in the US as I’ll Follow You Down) stars Haley Joel Osment as Erol Whyte, a maths genius who’s haunted by the mysterious disappearance of his scientist father, Gabriel (Rufus Sewell) 12 years ago, an event that plunged his mother, Marika (Gillian Anderson), into heavily medicated depression. When his grandfather, Sal (Victor Garber), theorises that Gabriel time travelled to 1946 and got stranded, Erol comes to believe he’s living in an alternate timeline created by his father’s disappearance and determines to follow him into the past, in order to put right what once went wrong.
Even though an actual time machine doesn’t make an appearance until well over an hour into the film’s 93-minute running time, Continuum is still full of engaging time travel tropes, including some intense, chin-stroking discussion about the science of time travel (lots of talk of negative energy, the idea that Gabriel “stablilised a traversable wormhole”, that sort of thing) and that old favourite, the complex timeline of events scrawled on a handy wall. There’s also plenty of interesting discussion about the repercussions of time travel – for example, Erol and his girlfriend, Grace (Susanna Fournier), argue about the effect that changing the timeline will have on their relationship.
Continuum benefits considerably from performances that are probably stronger than the film really deserves. Osment, in particular, is excellent as the increasingly obsessed main character and part of the tension comes from the fact that you’re never quite sure if he’s doing the right thing. Similarly, Garber is reliably good value, while Anderson brings intense emotion to her underwritten role. Fair warning, though – if you’ve come to the movie primarily for Anderson and Sewell (both prominently placed on the poster), be advised that both actors are offscreen for around an hour each due to plot reasons.
Dramatically speaking, Continuum takes its sweet time getting to the good stuff, but it does have a terrific pay-off scene when it finally gets there. However, it’s let down considerably by its tendency towards melodrama – the scenes that are meant to serve as motivation for Erol (and later, Gabriel) border dangerously on insensitive. On a similar note, there’s a bizarre moment where Grace equates time travel to abortion that could probably have done with a rethink.
The script and direction have other problems, such as the fact that we’re supposed to believe an excited Sal has somehow managed to keep quiet about his time travel theory for several years, when the way he enthusiastically blurts it out to Erol seems more like he’s only just come up with it. Similarly, a supposedly explanatory montage sequence towards the end is poorly handled and doesn’t really make sense. However, those moments are balanced out with oddly sweet little details, such as Gabriel showing up at Einstein’s house, only to discover that he’s out for his morning walk.
In short, Continuum is poorly structured and occasionally frustrating, but it’s worth seeing for the performances and attempts to grapple with the ethics and consequences of time travel, even if those attempts aren’t always successful.
Continuum is available to watch on Amazon Freevee for free (with adverts) within the Amazon Prime Video app.