Sherwin is a scientist — or maybe just a crackpot inventor — who has created a time travel device via an elevator. He uses his invention rarely, since he doesn’t want to trigger any unwanted consequences.
But on the day his best friend Darrell gets married, he loses the ring as best man, and must travel back in time to find it. But he must dodge being seen by his past self at the risk of triggering any paradoxes. Needless to say, his attempts don’t go so well, forcing him to travel back in time again and again. But then he learns something during his travels back in time that just might change everything.
Tony Award-nominated director Sam Buntrock and writer Stanton Nash’s sci-fi time travel short is a smart, fizzy exploration of the genre’s tropes, with a structure that itself loops through the iterations of one particular “trip,” each from a slightly different angle. As the narrative progresses, Sherwin comes closer and closer to the solution of his intellectual and emotional puzzle.
Through dynamic camerawork and brisk editing, the short has the feel of a comedy, with a buoyant, quicksilver energy that keeps the story moving forward, even as it loops through the same incidents again and again. As a result, the film has a jazz-like feel — which also is reflected in its excellently skittish score– that moves and sounds very differently from most films in the sci-fi genre.
Tony Award-nominated actor Rob McClure also anchors the film with a precise, engaging performance that captures the increasing desperation of Sherwin as he attempts to unravel the mess he’s made for himself, both with time travel and with his best friend’s wedding ring. His attempts to elude detection while also trying to help his past selves are often amusing, though at the end he finds he must rethink his rules to find his way out of his puzzle.
Clever, drily funny and with a interesting little twist at the end, “Recursion” is an enjoyable puzzlebox of a short, and sharp-eyed viewers will enjoy picking up small clues and details that connect each iteration of the time travel loop. Much like “Back to the Future” and its sequels, it turns the idea of time travel into a fun, fast-paced ride that nevertheless offers a hint at how difficult it is to keep mistakes from repeating themselves. We can’t keep going back into the past; we can only truly move forward into the future with whatever baggage we’ve brought to the present moment.