Sophie (Judy Greer) is reeling after her husband Mal (Edi Gathegi) tragically died in a drunk driving incident eight months ago. Mal was a scientist, and shared that love with their daughter Riley (Faithe Herman); after his passing, Riley is despondent, acting up in school, unwilling to bond with Sophie, and giving up on her love for science entirely. On top of it all, with lawyer bills piling up in the court case following the incident as she falls behind in her job as a nurse, Sophie is beginning to run out of financial options.
But, her friend Jabir (Payman Maadi) has an idea: what if they could bring Mal back from the dead and fix everything? Jabir reveals to Sophie that he and Mal were working on a time travel device for the last few years. Here’s the catch: the device isn’t working exactly as anticipated. Jabir explains that based on how the machine sends subatomic particles back in time, it actually kills someone in the past. (Judging by how quickly Aporia addresses this and moves passed it, it’s probably best you don’t think about the scientific feasibility and just accept it.) As Jabir explains, it’s essentially a “gun that can fire a bullet into the past.” If they kill the drunk driver who killed Mal before the incident happens, then Mal could be alive once more.
After some thought, Sophie agrees to use the machine, and it actually works: Mal is alive, and the last eight months have played out like he was by her side the entire time. Sophie and Jabir explain everything to Mal and begin to ponder if they can take this further. Should they stop a terrible school shooting from ever happening? The wife of Mal’s drunk driver is now widowed and struggling financially. She had nothing to do with any of this, so should they try to help her too?
From there, Aporia turns into a bit of a monkey’s paw situation, concerning itself with the unintended consequences of such choices. Sadly, Jared Moshe’s script is never clever enough to elevate the film above the plot’s classic trappings. For those knowledgeable of this type of lo-fi science fiction setup where physics devices are comprised of twisted wires and car parts (I say that with affection — I love the handmade, tactile feel of it all), Aporia covers well-trodden ground and lacks the spontaneity to ever illicit genuine excitement or emotional engagement.
As it progresses, Aporia transforms more into a drama than a sci-fi thriller, using the concept of messing with the time-space continuum as an inroad to explore the struggle of handling grief. As someone who always likes seeing Judy Greer onscreen, it’s gratifying to see her in a lead role for a change. She performs admirably as always, wringing whatever emotion she can out of the fairly bland material. Though, the script rarely provides any favors. Much exposition is awkwardly delivered, such as Jabir’s introduction in which he talks physics at his unsuspecting Uber passenger so that you know he loves science.
Aside from some jarringly obvious instances of ADR, Aporia uses its restricted resources commendably, but still never escapes the feeling of being on autopilot. The core of the film is Greer and Gathegi’s relationship, and although they’re both doing their best, they often come across as acquaintances instead of a couple. Their early interactions make use of this slight sense of detachment, hinting that their marriage was struggling before Mal’s death. But, as Aporia has these characters reckon with their choices and reaches for strong emotion near its conclusion, a needed spark never coalesces.
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