Lucen is a child genius with a talent for invention and engineering. During one fateful summer, he enlists his loyal best friend Brian to help him build a time machine.
At first, the project seems like a lark, a way to spend the summer hours. But as Brian gets to know Lucen and discovers Lucen’s painfully distant family life, with an emotionally remote father and absent mother, he realizes the time machine has a much bigger significance for Lucen. When Lucen’s invention is complete, it takes the precocious youth to an unexpected and emotional place.
This warmhearted, earnest drama — written and directed by Aidan Largey and produced by Margaret McGoldrick and Leo McGuigan — may have a time machine at the center of its plot, but any sci-fi trappings are secondary to the richer emotional journey of its characters. Told from the point-of-view of an older, wiser but still very affectionate Brian, this is a story about loyalty, friendship, family and acceptance, told with great generosity and sincerity.
The film is shot much more like a family drama than a sci-fi genre film, with its warmly burnished lighting and photography and its eye for lovely natural detail. Handsomely shot, there’s a comforting gentleness to the craftsmanship, and much of the film is suffused with a golden, mellow light that often feels like the deep affection of memory and nostalgia.
Similarly, the character-centered writing focuses less on the razzle-dazzle of time travel and invention, instead, training its attention on the interactions and relationships between the two boys. It gives them time to talk, and the pair sound like two real kids talking instead of children exchanging overly witty quips a la Disney.
The pacing takes its time, with a looseness that lets viewers come to know the story’s characters. From a structural perspective, taking the POV of the best friend actually offers the story the greatest narrative ground to traverse, since Lucen is a bit of a mystery to Brian, and the audience discovers alongside him what motivates Lucen.
Lucen, as it turns out, has suffered a good amount of travail with his family. He refuses to talk about his absent mother, and his father — played by Game of Thrones actor Ian Beattie — is silent and distant, unable to relate at all to Lucen. Coming from this emotionally starved background, Lucen builds his time machine in the hopes of connecting with his mother. But when it fails, he must come to accept his loss, and move through it.
Emotionally generous and unafraid of wearing its heart on its sleeve, “Time and Again” uses the time machine not simply as a plot device — the film doesn’t elaborate much on its mechanics or its innovation. Instead, it becomes a rich metaphor for the longing to explore the past or anticipate the future. And while both impulses are understandable — especially when it comes to dealing with long-buried grief — they also take us out of the here and now. The present moment may be painful, dissatisfying or woefully inadequate, but it is ultimately where life’s richness lies, forming the foundation of memories that keep us connected to our pasts and adding up to a bridge to a solid future.