This Time Image

This Time

By Alan Ng | May 8, 2023

LOS ANGELES ASIAN PACIFIC FILM FESTIVAL 2023 REVIEW! Sebastien Tobler’s romance, This Time, does precisely what romances need to do. The writer-director gets us to root for the lead characters to fall in love, no matter how complicated the circumstances are. But, boy, are those circumstances ever complicated.

Of course, the film starts with the most basic trope of romance: the coincidental first meeting. Colin (Ken Kirby) and Laela (Leila Perry) were once best friends at a high school for foreign families in Jakarta, Indonesia. But unfortunately, they were forced to leave overnight at the dawn of the 1998 Indonesia revolution. Colin and Laela never saw each other again without even a goodbye. In the ultimate act of cosmic coincidence, Colin and Laela run into one another twenty years later at a record store in Los Angeles.

Their twenty-year separation is now gone, and their friendship is rekindled in an instant. I did mention this is a romance, right? The complication is that Colin is moving to the East Coast to be with his wife and son. To complicate things further, he leaves in the morning. After several chances to say goodbye one last time, Colin invites Laela to help him with the last bit of packing. After stuffing his luggage full, the two get some dinner and decide not to waste the remaining hours before Colin leaves.

“…Colin and Laela run into one another twenty years later at a record store…”

This Time is all about the chemistry between Kirby and Perry and the insightful story by Tobler. The script is incredibly tight, considering the events of the film take place over 18 hours and hits on a multitude of themes. At its foundation is the abruptness of the ending of Colin and Laela’s friendship, as it had the potential to become more. Will the pair find the proper closure during this brief window? Laela also carried this shift of life in her teens to become somewhat of a free spirit unable to be tied down. On the other hand, the once free-spirited Colin chose a life of stability. What the two have in common is that they have a hard time coming to grips with their idea of home.

Now the romance. Colin is married. It would be wrong of him to cheat even for a single moment with Laela. I mean, right? The performances from the leads are so engaging and full of life that you’re going to have this should they/shouldn’t they war waging in your mind from start to finish. Perry is a firebrand. That’s when you know you have an exceptional romance on your hands.

Last word about Tobler. I saw This Time at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival and stayed for the Q&A. The filmmaker is a testament to the need for filmmakers to be prepared on the day of filming. When you have a small budget, you need to not only be prepared with how your lovers are framed in every shot but to have a cast that has done their research and understands their roles on a personal/emotional level (i.e., you can’t just recite lines here). There is craftsmanship that Tobler brings here, and it should serve as an inspiration for making the most of what is given to you as an independent filmmaker.

This Time was screened at the 2023 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival.

This Time (2023)

Directed and Written: Sebastien Tobler

Starring: Ken Kirby, Leila Perry, etc.

Movie score: 8.5/10

This Time Image

"…should serve as an inspiration for making the most of what is given to you as an independent filmmaker."

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