Movies Reviews

While complexity in storytelling is admirable—as is not underestimating audience intellect—writer-director Jacob Gentry’s Synchronicity is a twisty time-travel movie which simply twists too much. A muddled mix of sci-fi, film noir and romance, Synchronicity is sunk by wince-inducing dialogue and the lack of a believable love story between its leads—not to mention the sheer glut of plot points Gentry just expects the audience to stomach without much reason to do so.

Gentry’s first feature, the 2007 horror triptych The Signal (co-written and directed with David Bruckner and Dan Bush), experimented with perception and narrative, techniques that Gentry continues in Synchronicity. Chad Mcknight (The Signal, My Super Psycho Sweet 16) plays the film’s hero Jim Beale, a physicist on the verge of harnessing the power of wormholes to complete a time-travel machine. In the lab he’s assisted by friends Chuck and Matty (AJ Bowen and Scott Poythress, respectively, who both also worked on The Signal). While Bowen’s turn as Jim’s best friend and voice of reason works, less so does Pothyress’s Matty, who we’re supposed to accept as a detrimentally bumbling but somehow brilliant fellow scientist. It doesn’t scan: If he has trouble distinguishing left from right, why on God’s green earth would Jim want him turning dials on the time machine?

In order to complete the project, Jim must make a deal with ruthless businessman Klaus Meisner (the always intense Michael Ironside): The rights to the work are on the line, and if Jim and his team fail, Meisner will lay claim to the machine. During an initial test, a Dahlia appears from the future. It’s perplexing at first, but they later find that the rare flower is related to the mysterious Abby (Brianne Davis), who may or may not be working in concert with Meisner to steal the machine. After sleeping with Abby, Jim’s convinced he needs to go back in time to prevent something from happening. Synchronicity then borrows elements from the Memento playbook to help Jim find an answer to his conspiracy theory mystery.

Gentry’s film resolves most of the major issues in its final act, though the heart of the film, the love story between Jim and Abby, is inexplicable. Lust isn’t an acceptable answer—the spark between McKnight and Davis is barely palpable—and there’s little reason for Jim to act like a jealous boyfriend, no matter in which dimension he resides. There’s even less reason, noir influences or not, for Synchronicity to objectify its only female character to such an extent. Abby is a sort of high-class hooker who wants to be a writer: In an exchange with Jim in her apartment, she greets him in a slinky robe, telling him that his news better be good if he wants to get under her robe, to which he states, “I know what’s underneath—trouble.” The character’s a prize to be fought over and won by men. Nothing more.

Gentry’s film does a notable job in combining the grittiness and dark hues from film noir with the anti-futuristic dystopia aesthetic of every great ’80s sci-fi classic. Less notable is Ben Lovett’s Moog synthesizer-based score—after initially helping set the film’s tone, the drone-y sounds later distract from the action at hand. Which is pretty much the problem with the film as a whole: A lot of homage and genre too often get in the way of what could have been a well-paced, smart story about love and hate transcending time.

Director: Jacob Gentry
Writer: Jacob Gentry
Starring: Chad Mcknight, AJ Bowen, Brianne Davis, Scott Poythress, Michael Ironside
Release Date: January 22, 2016

Christine N. Ziemba is a Los Angeles-based freelance pop culture writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow her on Twitter.

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