The core emotion of every time manipulation story is regret. Knowing and having influence over your future is one of humanity’s greatest unattainable desires which is why time travel movies are generally so compelling. The machine in “Time Lapse” does not allow for travel, but it does provide foresight, taking a photo once per day that depicts a moment 24 hours in the future. Bradley King’s low-budget debut uses a simple set-up and a claustrophobic setting to debate the existence of fate and explore what desperate people would do with this power.
Finn, Jasper and Callie are financially struggling young people who manage a cluster of ground floor apartments. When the owner of the complex asks them to check in on their unusually rent-tardy elderly neighbor (John Rhys-Davies in a voice and photo cameo), they are alarmed to discover a wall full of Polaroids taken through their living room window. Most of them are of past events, but some of them are of things that clearly haven’t happened yet. From his journal, they learn that the machine predicted what the scientist interpreted as his own death, and, in his last entry, he resolved to prevent it. So when they find his burnt-to-a-crisp body in a storage unit, they take it as a sign that they must not deviate from the events in the photos, lest they meet the same fate.
At first, the photos depict life improvements: Future Jasper sends himself dog track results and future Finn, suffering from painter’s block, is able to plagiarize his own work thanks to an easel conveniently set up in front of the prophetic window. But when the images in the photo take a dark turn, the trio believe they are slaves to fate, and their bond is inevitably torn apart by suspicion, jealousy and greed.
While “Time Lapse” is by no means perfect, King and screenwriter B.D. Cooper manage to make an absorbing movie about time manipulation without special effects, a la “Primer” and “Safety Not Guaranteed”. It’s a tad ostentatious at times. Some of the acting falters and I’m not sure the time logic completely scans. But despite the film’s shortcomings, you want to stick around to see it all play out. Besides, I don’t know about you but speaking as someone with a Flux Capacitor tattoo, I am ordained to watch every movie about time travel. It’s inevitable.