While time travel is among the most uninspired tropes in science fiction, we just keep coming back to it. A talented filmmaker can find interesting ways to play with a narrative involving time travel. Some may opt for a story with a grander scale, like preventing Hitler’s birth or some other catastrophic event. Others, like director Akash Sunethkumara in his short film Temporal, are more comfortable using time travel on a smaller scale, such as a means to save loved ones.
Kalpa (Vimukthi Kiriella) is a brilliant physicist working on a special program (the science never really matters, does it?) to enable time travel in five-minute increments. Unfortunately, he’s quite neglectful to Nikita (Ishanka Abeysekara), frequently missing dates while buried in work. One night, he misses an important dinner reservation, only to find out later that Nikita died in a brutal car accident that same evening. Luckily for Kalpa, this is around the same time that he finally figures out how to leap back in time. The rest of the film is dedicated to Kalpa attempting to prevent Nikita’s accident using his new discovery.
“…Kalpa attempting to prevent Nikita’s accident using his new discovery.”
Sri Lankan cinema is something of a blind spot for me. As such, I was mightily impressed by the production value that Sunethkumara brings to bear in this 30-minute film. Now, add in a few explosions, and one could easily mistake this for a Michael Bay short. The director never loses sight of the film’s strengths, which are the entertaining temporal contradictions that come from leaping back into the recent past, recalling Shane Carruth’s Primer.
Temporal is one of those modern time travel films that recognizes the dangerous rabbit hole of altered realities that would inevitably result from the ability to change the past. I’m not sure this could be sustained in a feature-length film, but those hankering for a 30-minute fix of fun sci-fi should seek this out.
"…I was mightily impressed by the production value..."