This review was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the film being covered here wouldn’t exist.Offering a unique science fiction twist on a familiar story, Aporia is a complex emotional drama that uses the lens of time travel to explore interpersonal relationships and moral quandaries about what it means to exist. While the narrative is rooted in the use of a sci-fi device, the film is rather light on traditional elements from the genre, relying almost entirely on the personal relationships of the characters and their shared memories to tell a story about the ripple effect one life can have on even the tiniest details of the world around them.

Written and directed by Jared Moshé, Aporia has a solid concept at its heart. If you could bring back the person you love the most by killing the person who took their life before it happened, would you? That’s the question at the heart of this film, and while anyone who’s suffered that kind of personal loss might think that decision is easy, it also comes with consequences. Moshé’s direction is stronger than his writing as Aporia takes on a sort of atmospheric energy. The audience will feel as though they’re in the room with these characters as they experience things like grief and loss and the crushing weight of making life-altering decisions. However, there are certainly some pacing issues with the script, and certain moments that are supposed to have a strong impact fall flat in the final product.

Judy Greer is a standout among the cast starring in the lead role as Sophie Rice, a woman who lost her husband to a drunk driver and is willing to do anything to get him back. A tremendous amount of the emotional depth of Aporia rests on Greer’s shoulders as she showcases her range from feelings of exhaustion and depression to desperation and shame and onto euphoria and love. Edi Gathegi, who plays her husband, Mal, delivers a decent performance, excelling in the moments when he gets to bounce off of Greer and lean into their genuine chemistry.

The young actress playing their daughter, Faithe Herbert, has a lot of potential. While she doesn’t have the biggest role in the movie, she’s very believable as the brilliant yet temperamental teen. Payman Maadi plays Jabir, the physicist who, along with Mal, invents the time machine that allows the characters to kill a person in the past. Unfortunately, Maadi gives the weakest performance of the bunch, but that may be a failure of the writing for Jabir rather than anything Maadi did or didn’t do. There’s a secondary plot in which Jabir lost his own family long ago, but because the audience is told rather than shown, it falls flat in terms of making us want to see him go far enough back in time that he can save them.

Aporia’s biggest drawback is that it is, for the most part, rather boring. Much of the first half of the film simply runs its characters through the motions of the aftermath of a loss without giving the audience a deeper connection to them or a strong motivation to root for them to use the machine and take the life of the person who caused their pain. The pacing drags through the beginning of the film and into the middle, in what would be a decent slow burn with a stronger script. Thankfully, the film does pick up in the third act, as the main trio’s decisions begin to spiral out of control leading them to incidentally alter their own lives beyond repair in an attempt to improve the lives of others.

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‘Aporia’ Delivers a Thought-Provoking Message Despite a Slow Start

Image via Well Go USA Entertainment 

While light on actual time travel or the usual visual elements of science fiction, Aporia explores the genre by examining the ripple effects of our shared experiences. After Sophie gets Mal back, she still remembers the 8 months in which he was dead, though everyone who wasn’t in the room when she and Jabir used the machine, remembers the time as if he never died. Now that they know the machine works, they come up against the question of whether or not to keep using it in order to carry out vigilante justice and save innocent people from perceived villains. But humans are not that simple. The butterfly effect of taking a person’s life changes the world in unfathomable ways beyond the trio’s good intentions. Each time they use the machine, their memories are unchanged, though they’ve altered the lives of multiple people around them each time. Aporia delivers a dual lesson in the ramifications of taking a life and the realization of how much the everyday choices we make can impact the world around us.

While we won’t spoil the third act twist, Sophie and Mal eventually find themselves in a timeline that they don’t recognize at all, one where they certainly don’t belong. Aporia proves that life is made up almost entirely of shared memories, and the isolation of finding yourself in a world where those connections don’t exist can be soul-crushing. The film leaves you with a somewhat predictable conclusion that doesn’t answer every question posed within. That open-ended aspect certainly works in Aporia‘s favor as the viewer is allowed to fill in the blanks for a happy ending if they so choose, or one can continue to ponder near-endless possibilities for the world in which Sophie ends up.

Ultimately, what matters most about the ending of Aporia is that whatever the world looks like in the timeline that Sophie ends up in, it’s the one that she recognizes. Death and heartbreak are always going to be a part of life, no matter how many precautions we take to prevent or avoid those inevitabilities. Sophie learns that it doesn’t matter how many people she saves or how much vigilante justice she and Mal and Jabir roll out if they don’t recognize the lives they’ve built then they have no purpose in that new world. What the film lacks in terms of writing, it makes up for in chemistry between the leads, a thought-provoking message, and a strong anchoring performance from Greer.

Rating: B-

The Big Picture

  • Aporia is a unique science fiction film that explores interpersonal relationships and moral quandaries through the lens of time travel.
  • The film relies heavily on the personal connections and shared memories of the characters to tell a story about the ripple effect of one life on the world.
  • While Aporia has pacing issues, a strong performance from Judy Greer helps to make up for its flaws.

Aporia premiered on July 27 at the Fantasia Film Festival 2023 and arrives in theaters on August 11.

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