Movies · Reviews

For Better or Worse, Synchronicity Is Gumby Sci-Fi

By  · Published on January 19th, 2016


The near future. A world where Venetian blind manufacturers have an iron grip on the home/office decorating market, scientists work against financial constraints to achieve the impossible, and corporations conspire to own everyone and everything. (So basically, it’s like the present, minus the Venetian blind monopoly.)

Jim Beale (Chad McKnight) is on the cutting edge of one such impossible discovery, and along with his assistants, Chuck (A.J. Bowen) and Matty (Scott Poythress), he’s just made history by opening a portal into the future. His experiments need a particular element to proceed, and that means he has to invite a billionaire CEO named Klaus Meisner (Michael Ironside) into the fold. Jim also meets Abby (Brianne Davis), a young woman whose interests are as smoky and dimly-lit as every room in town.

As Jim struggles to recreate the experiment he finds himself losing control of his discovery and his heart – Klaus is after controlling interest in Jim’s accomplishments and Abby has left him deeply smitten. As the clock ticks down to their next and possibly last chance at opening a wormhole, he races to prevent the loss of everything he holds sacred.

Writer/director Jacob Gentry’s new feature, Synchronicity – his first since taking part in 2007’s excellent and fun The Signal – is a twisty tale of time travel, love, and corporate overreach. There are elements to appreciate, but like a broken timepiece that gets it right twice a day it misses the mark far more frequently. It’s Gumby sci-fi – so focused on being bendy and fun that its numerous attempts at more serious tangents immediately crack under the pressure.

The time travel twists of the tale are fairly well crafted, and while nitpickers may find some instances to question the tightly wound threads hold together more often than not. Jim becomes a part of the experiment in a desperate bid to save his future, and the resulting chaos of near-misses and close calls adds an energy to the otherwise relaxed atmosphere. Events play out while future ones unfold in the background before we even know to expect them, and sharp editing keeps the focus on the now even as we’re teased by what’s yet to come.

That relaxed calm though is the film’s biggest downfall. Jim has created something incredible here, something that could change everything we know about our universe – but he shows almost no urgency. The speed with which he falls for Abby is false on its face as the two actors share little chemistry – more of a dialogue issue than a performance one – and we’re shown no reason as to why he would give himself over to her so completely and quickly. Sex and coffee sure, but he risks throwing everything away for a barely day-old love that isn’t remotely believable.

The science of the film is wisely a mix of techno-speak and omission, but one aspect of the experiment is shared to the film’s detriment. A key step in the process involves being able to distinguish left from right – something the assistant in charge of that step is utterly incapable of mastering. It’s played for laughs and suspense, but it’s incomprehensible to think they would risk so much in this way.

Performances are fine in general – Bowen in particular delivers with some terrifically dry humor – but they all seem encouraged to play their characters as if none of this was really all that important. There’s nothing wrong with a casual and loose sci-fi tale, but the script wants us to take so much of this seriously that the happy-go-lucky, overly precious dialogue and subsequent performances can’t quite carry that weight.

Gentry also wears his Blade Runner influences on his sleeve with his use of shifting lighting (shining and moving through those omnipresent Venetian blinds) and occasionally Vangelis-sounding score (composed by Ben Lovett). It all works well to create a mood and atmosphere that carries the film into noir-ish territory.

Synchronicity remains an engaging-enough watch thanks to some smart interplay between the present and the future, but its inability to balance tone makes it far slighter than it wants to be.

Editor’s note: Our review of Synchronicity originally ran during the 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival, but we’re re-posting it as the film opens in limited release this weekend.

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.