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The Overlook Film Festival 2024 Review - THINGS WILL BE DIFFERENT

Fugitive siblings use time travel to hide out in the past.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Michael Felker

Starring: Riley Dandy, Adam David Thompson, Chloe Skoczen, Justin Benson, Sarah Bolger

Previously an editor on the films of cult duo Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead (who serve as exec producers here), Michael Felker makes his debut as writer/director with Things Will Be Different. It's a film that's in thematic lockstep with those of his previous collaborators, with metaphysical and time travelling elements similar to those found in Benson and Moorhead's Resolution and its sequel The Endless.

After pulling off some sort of a heist that has left them in possession of two bags loaded with banknotes, estranged brother and sister Joseph (Adam David Thompson) and Sidney (Riley Dandy) meet up at a small town diner and proceed to head to a remote abandoned farmhouse that has been loaned to the pair as a hideout by a customer at Joseph's bar. This is no ordinary safe house however: it possesses the power to transport its inhabitants through time. Following directions in a notebook, Joseph and Sidney use the hands of grandfather clocks to unlock a door which leads them to a dark room. In the room, dialling a number on an old rotary phone transports the fugitive siblings back to an uncertain point in the past. The decrepit farmhouse they entered is now fully decorated and stocked with food and drink. The plan is for Joseph and Sidney to sit tight for two weeks and then return to the present and make their getaway.

Things Will Be Different review

Over the ensuing fortnight, the brother and sister reacquaint themselves with one another. We learn that they were each raised by a separate parent, and that Joseph has long harboured guilt over leaving his sister to take the rap for a crime they committed in the past. Sidney assures him she doesn't hold any grudges, and it seems all is going well. That's until it's time to return to the present and they find a strange force has blocked their path. The farmhouse is surrounded by an invisible force field that causes Riley to vomit her innards when she tries to breach it. The doorway they used to travel back is now inaccessible. In the adjacent mill house they find a corpse which Joseph identifies as that of the woman who introduced him to this unusual place.

When a safe containing a Dictaphone appears from nowhere, Joseph and Sidney find themselves communicating with someone who appears to be in the future and able to travel back to before the time they're stuck in. Using the Dictaphone to leave messages back and forth, Joseph and Sidney are told that the stranger has the ability to "wipe" them from time. Sidney offers a cut of their takings from the heist, but the stranger has no interest in their money. Instead he offers them a deal. At some point they'll be attacked by another stranger. If they kill this stranger they'll be allowed to live and return to the present.

Things Will Be Different review

I strongly advise you don't try to watch Felker's debut while nursing a hangover, as you might give yourself an aneurysm trying to keep on top of its mind-melting plot. In similar fashion to Resolution it involves a pair of protagonists trying to survive with the aid of messages from the future, and it has all the metaphysical weirdness of a season's worth of cult British sci-fi show Sapphire & Steel. I'm not sure if that show had the same sort of cultural impact in the US, or if Felker has even heard of it, but there's a specific element of the show that finds its way into Things Will Be Different. Part of the lore of Sapphire & Steel is that objects out of time, like antiques in a modern home, can make that place receptive to becoming a conduit to time travel. In Things Will Be Different, we're told that Sidney runs a failing antiques store, and she notes the presence of some curious antique items in the farmhouse.

Devotees of Fortean history will also note an allusion to the infamous Philadelphia Experiment, with Sidney noting how the previous owners of the farmhouse seemed to have a Naval connection. I was also reminded of the case of the Dodleston messages, which saw a couple in 1980s England claim they were receiving communications initially from an inhabitant of their home in the 16th century, and later from one in the 22nd century!

Things Will Be Different review

I have to admit I was left puzzled by certain elements of Things Will Be Different's elliptical narrative, particularly regarding the identities of the various supporting characters who show up. Some of the film's reveals only serve to bring up more questions, and I'm not sure if the film successfully answers them. I suspect Felker's film is one that requires multiple viewings to get your head fully around its story, but as a reviewer with an ever-growing pile of screeners to get through that's unfortunately not a luxury I can afford.

For all I know, those who do indulge in multiple viewings of Felker's film may well find it doesn't stand up to such scrutiny. What matters is that the film convinces you in the moment that it knows exactly what it's doing. Much of this is down to the committed performances of Thompson and Dandy, who put very human faces to the film's heady themes. If in possession of the power to turn back the clock, many of us would want to course correct our relationships with family members. For all its inter-dimensionality, Felker's film is grounded in a story of two people trying to make things right. As someone who's very much right-brained, I struggle with a lot of films that focus on scientific ideas and the solving of narrative puzzles. But what kept me gripped throughout Things Will Be Different was the human relationship that provides it with as much heart as food for thought.

Things Will Be Different plays at The Overlook Film Festival from April 5th.

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