Review by Sean Boelman
When one thinks of indie filmmaking, sci-fi probably isn’t the first genre that pops to mind, but several filmmakers in recent years have tried their hand at telling sci-fi stories on a shoestring budget. Jared Moshé’s Aporia takes its unique premise and creates a compelling, if flawed film that’s generally more effective as a drama than it is as a dense science fiction tale.
The film follows a widow who, with the help of her late husband’s best friend, realizes that there is a way to bring her husband back using a time machine — only to set off a web of impossible choices. And while one might expect a somewhat standard time travel flick from this premise, Moshé manages to put an interesting spin on the genre’s tropes.
Moshé’s script definitely takes some time to get moving. The first act is a bit rough, as Moshé struggles to set everything up about the characters, premise, and world — falling back on exposition a bit too often for his own good. But after this is all out of the way, viewers will be able to get more invested in the story.
One area in which the film greatly succeeds is giving the audience several characters about whom we are able to genuinely care. While the character motivations are a tad on the generic side — it’s another genre film about grief, as if we didn’t have enough of those — the sincerity with which it approaches these emotions allows the film to resonate nonetheless.
The visuals of the film are clearly lower-budget than most sci-fi films, but director Jared Moshé manages to make the most out of it. The film brings the work of other filmmakers like Moorhead and Benson or Shane Carruth, where it deals with these big concepts but in a way that is extremely character-driven and feels like it could genuinely happen in our world.
As is the case with many lo-fi sci-fi movies, the primary focus of Aporia is firmly on asking big, philosophical questions. And while some of these are thought-provoking, many of them are the same themes that have been explored more effectively in better films — like the ethicality of taking one life to save several. Other questions posed by the film mean well, but are head-scratchingly regressive if you begin to fully dissect them.
As usual, Judy Greer manages to single-handedly elevate the film with an extraordinary performance, despite material that is somewhat uneven. Particularly in the final third of the film, where the emotions she experiences are much more complex and nuanced, she’s absolutely gripping. Surprisingly, no one in the supporting cast — even the exceptional Iranian actor Payman Maadi — is able to ascend beyond the script’s melodramatic leanings.
Aporia gets off to a bit of a rough start, and has a few stumbles along the way, but it’s still mostly charming as a scrappy indie sci-fi movie. Strong performances and a whole-hearted commitment to the film’s emotional core will ensure that audiences are won over by the time the credits roll.
Aporia screened at the 2023 Fantasia Film Festival, which runs from July 20 to August 9.