- Aporia is a time travel film that focuses on the drama and emotions of its characters, rather than the sci-fi elements.
- Judy Greer delivers an excellent dramatic performance in Aporia, stepping out of her comedic comfort zone.
- The film understands its limitations and delivers a sensible and well-executed story, without relying on flashy visuals or gimmicks.
Editor’s note: This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn’t exist.
Writer-director Jared Moshe’s third feature is his first that is not a Western. For Aporia, he turns to the world of time travel and family tragedy. The film boasts some of Judy Greer’s best dramatic work to date and familiar faces like Edi Gathegi help to solidify the film’s supporting cast. There are many time travel films with similar plots, but few scratch at the surface like Aporia.
Sophie (Greer) is grieving the loss of her husband Malcolm (Gathegi) and doesn’t know how to move forward without him. Her daughter Riley (Faithe Herman) isn’t speaking with her and their family is slowly falling apart. Sophie turns to Malcolm’s old friend and collaborator, Jabir (Payman Maadi). Jabir does his best to help out where he can, picking up Riley from school and talking to Sophie when she is down. One day he reveals that he and Malcolm were working on a time machine before he died. But this time machine doesn’t take the user to a place in time; rather, it has the ability to kill someone in the past. Because a drunk driver killed Malcolm they decide to use the machine to kill the driver, bringing Malcolm back to life.
To everyone’s surprise, the machine works. The couple reunites with their daughter and everything seems to be back to normal. However, the guilt that they have this power and only use it for themselves starts to weigh on Sophie, Malcolm, and especially Jabir. They begin targeting terrorists and people who are already dead but who caused great harm during their lives. As a result, their lives are turned upside down and what is meant as a tool to help the world becomes the undoing of their own.
Aporia is a very straightforward time travel movie. Though the minutia is a bit off the beaten path of the genre, what separates it from its counterparts is the emphasis on drama. The time machine is not fancy nor is it the focus of the film. The plot centers on Sophie’s grief and Malcolm’s feelings about how they use the machine. At times, the script falls into a trap of over-explaining science we know to be nonsense, but overall the juxtaposition of real life and sci-fi works well, and the bonds the characters form ultimately paper over any techno-babble.
The performances in Aporia all work in synchronicity. Gathegi and Maadi do not anchor the film, but their dramatic background lays the foundation for Greer to shine. The Arrested Development alum is excellent as a dramatic lead and makes the most of the opportunity to step out of her comedic comfort zone. No one in Aporia is going to blow you away, but the fact is that they don’t need to. They just need to convince you that all of this is really happening, which is a skill unto itself. Many performers give away that they are in genre work by over or under-acting given the source material. But when that material is science fiction it can often feel like they are living in a science fiction world, not the world as we know it. Everyone including Herman is on the same page in that regard and as a result, you get a sensible film that feels lived in.
Aporia is a solid film that understands its limitations and does not seek to reinvent the wheel. The themes land in a way that many genre films are not capable of because they are too focused on the McGuffin or otherworldly aspects. But in Aporia, drama takes center stage and bells and whistles are few and far between. The production value is simple but effective, as are the performances. By the time the credits roll, Moshe’s film makes its point and, crucially, does not overstay its welcome.
Aporia is in theaters now. The film is 104 minutes long and rated R for some language.