Time Travel Thursday: Time Will Tell (2018)
Time travel tropes3
Matthew Turner | On 05, Aug 2021
Director: Tonnie Dinjens
Stars: Louisa Connolly-Burnham, McKell David, Louise Breckon-Richards, Mark Fleischmann, William Sutton, Miranda Wilson, Drew Elston
Where to watch Time Will Tell online in the UK: Amazon Prime
Has Palm Springs 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.
Originally known by the more accurate title of Timespy, this low-budget British drama centres on troubled teen Kim Temple (Louisa Connolly-Burnham), who’s distressed because her criminal father, Martin (Drew Elston), may soon be released from prison. On a night out with new friend Eddy (McKell David), Kim discovers that stressful situations cause her to pass out, and that when she’s unconscious she can travel back in time to key events in her past.
Having seen a brief glimpse of her father with bloodied hands, Kim becomes convinced that he murdered someone, so she takes more and more trips into the past, hoping to prove his guilt and extend his prison sentence. However, in order to induce the required stress levels for time travel, Kim has to put herself in increasingly dangerous situations in the present.
Strictly speaking, Kim’s abilities are closer to astral projection than they are to time travel, because her body stays in the present (Dinjens frequently cuts back to show her twitching in her sleep) and she’s unable to physically interact with anyone in her past. That said, the climax of the film leans back into time travel conventions, so it gets a pass on the time travel front.
In common with other low-budget sci-fi movies, the time travel is achieved with editing and blurry frame camera effects for the sequences taking place in the past. Similarly, the film employs at least one standard time travel trope to strong dramatic effect (witnessing a key event from a different perspective), although for the most part, Kim might as well be discovering spycam or CCTV footage, since all she’s doing with her powers is watching things happen.
Co-written by Michiel Richards and Sander Offenberg, the script has a number of interesting ideas, but fails to execute them in a coherent fashion. One key problem is that the script fails to establish consistent rules for what’s happening to Kim – for example, several scenes suggest that she becomes increasingly tired when she’s in the past and needs to make her way back to the same physical space she’s occupying in the present in order to return safely, but the consequences of not doing so are never stated, so there’s no tension in those sequences.
It’s a clever idea to have Kim putting herself in greater and greater danger in order to trigger her time travel trips, but other than having her stand on the edge of a roof (without having previously established that she’s afraid of heights), nothing really dramatic results from that set-up. It’s also stated that the time travel is having a severe effect on her health (Eddy tells her she looks exhausted, as if she’s aged 10 years), but again, that’s an idea that goes nowhere.
Sadly, an inability to follow through on a good idea is only the beginning of the script’s problems. There are a number of confusing scenes that make no sense at all, such as a sequence that implies Kim can now travel into the future, in that she’s witnessing a present day moment we haven’t yet seen and seems surprised by it. The scene in question is presumably intended to be her re-living something she was too drunk or high to remember at the time, but it’s so badly directed and edited that none of that comes across at all, and the characters never refer to the incident again.
In fact, the script is so poor that there’s an entire subplot (involving security guards and a soon-to-be-abandoned building) that’s borderline incoherent and seems to exist purely to have Kim and Eddy running around for a bit. Even the Kim and Eddy relationship is a waste of potential – for one thing, if she’d confided in him a bit earlier, it would have allowed the script to spell out what’s happening more clearly.
In fairness, the two leads are engaging, and the film builds to a strong twist, even if it ultimately sets an uncomfortable example in its treatment of a central plot point. Without giving too much away, the film is set up so that you think you’re watching Kim processing her traumatic childhood, but that’s not quite what happens and the result is troubling on a different level.
In the end, the most interesting thing about the film occurs in the penultimate scene, where a smartly used white-out effect implies the erasure of an entire timeline. That’s a pretty big deal for a time travel movie but, true to form, the film just casually brushes right past that huge moment, claiming a happy ending instead.
Time Will Tell is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.