The Present Image

The Present

By Ryan Devir | June 14, 2024

Directed by Chris Ditter and written by Jay Martel, The Present plays like a mash-up of Groundhog Day blended with Back To The Future and The Parent Trap. Unfortunately, there is no DeLorean, but a mysterious grandfather clock can manipulate time.

After discovering that his grandfather’s old clock can turn back time by 12 hours, Taylor Diehl (Easton Rocket Sweda) decides to use it to roll back the night his parents (Greg Kinnear and Isla Fisher) announce they are separating. As each day ends in failure, Taylor enlists the help of his older sister, Emma (Shay Rudolph), and his brother, Max (Mason Shea Joyce). Every time they use the clock to reset the day, it ages more and begins to disintegrate. They do not know how many attempts they will have left to save their parents’ marriage. The kids begin to wrestle with the knowledge that, just like the clock, their family may be falling apart, and they will be unable to stop it.

The Present gets right into the action from the opening scene. The parents announce their separation, and then suddenly, the scene accelerates in reverse, resetting to the beginning of the day. The audience must play catch-up in the first 20 minutes because it’s not clear what is going on. Information is slowly revealed through questionable edits, leaving you wondering if scenes were cut for time.

Normally, diving right into the narrative is a great way to engage the audience. Still, here, it misses an opportunity for the audience to learn about the family and, most importantly, to know the parents. The low stakes make it hard for them to stay together.

“…his grandfather’s old clock can turn back time by 12 hours,…”

For comparison, think of the movies Alien and Underwater. Alien takes its time for the audience to meet everyone on the ship and experience the day-to-day relationships, so once chests start exploding, you’re afraid for everyone on board. Conversely, Underwater starts with the facility mysteriously flooding and characters dying, so although it is more kinetic out of the gate, you lose the opportunity to care about the characters.

Back in The Present, every time the day resets, we experience the new day from a different character’s perspective. Think Vantage Point. However, there just isn’t enough time devoted to the parent’s relationship, why the grandfather had this magic clock, and why the lead character, Taylor, doesn’t speak or like to be touched. The Present also begs the question: who is this for? With comments about condoms and extramarital affairs, it feels too mature for kids younger than 12, and yet the comedy may be too silly for teenagers.

It’s refreshing to see a film dedicated to the importance of family and how marriage is worth fighting for. It’s also a surprise for a film to show how, despite the common saying “kids are resilient,” divorce really can be destructive to the lives of children.

The film keeps a good pace through its runtime, has solid cinematography, and is entertaining, but it could have used more exposition to raise the stakes. The Present has heartwarming moments but lacks real heart. In film, we need to know who we are rooting for, and The Present ultimately keeps you just far enough on the outside to not care. The cute factor makes this a soft recommendation.

The Present (2024)

Directed: Chris Ditter

Written: Jay Martel

Starring: Greg Kinnear, Isla Fisher, Easton Rocket Sweda, Shay Rudolph, Mason Shea Joyce, etc.

Movie score: 6/10

The Present  Image

"…a mysterious grandfather clock that can manipulate time..."

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