'I'll Follow You Down': Film Review

This thematically ambitious sci-fi thriller doesn't live up to its intriguing premise.

Haley Joel Osment plays a young scientist determined to go back in time in search of his missing father in Richie Mehta's sci-fi tale.

A sci-fi tale about time travel played more for emotional resonance than thrills, I’ll Follow You Down takes a lite approach to its mind-bending subject. While a fine cast enlivens this effort by director Richie Mehta (Amal), the film is too undercooked to be sufficiently compelling, even if it offers some intriguing ideas along the way. Opening theatrically and on VOD, the film will find its larger audience via the latter format thanks to the presence of such familiar thesps as Haley Joel Osment and Gillian Anderson.

Osment, all grown-up some 15 years after his Oscar-nominated turn in The Sixth Sense, plays Erol, a brilliant 21-year-old budding scientist whose life was forever altered by the mysterious disappearance of his physicist father Gabe (Rufus Sewell) during a business trip to Princeton, New Jersey. Although his mother (Anderson) never recovered emotionally from the event, Erol has at least moved on, enjoying a committed relationship with his childhood sweetheart Grace (Susanna Fournier).

Twelve years after his father disappeared, Erol finds himself once again caught up in the mystery when, after a traumatic event involving his mother, his scientist grandfather finally reveals his theory as to what happened. He believes that his son-in-law traveled back in time through a wormhole in an effort to make contact with Albert Einstein in 1946, only to be murdered during a mugging. Having access to Gabe’s papers containing his theories, he proposes to use the same method to go back in time himself and reverse the tragic course of events. The initially skeptical Erol insists on going on the mission himself, much to the consternation of the now pregnant Grace who believes that any efforts to change the course of history will result in prevention of their relationship.

The potentially meaty sci-fi tale is undercut by director-screenwriter Mehta’s laid-back approach, resulting in many tedious scenes involving Erol and his grandfather engaging in convoluted scientific discussions and tiresome philosophical debates about the ramifications of traveling through time. Even the film’s climactic scenes, involving Erol’s experiences when he finally embarks on the fateful journey, lack the intended dramatic punch.

Lacking the imaginative stylistic flourishes of such far more ambitious, similarly themed films as Primer and Inception, I’ll Follow You Down seems best suited for undemanding younger audiences for whom the idea of reconnecting with a lost parent will have an undeniable appeal. Despite the fine performances by the lead actors -- Anderson is particularly moving as the emotionally devastated mother -- I’ll Follow You Down doesn’t have the cinematic heft to live up to its ambitious premise.

Production: Resolute Films and Entertainment

Cast: Haley Joel Osment, Gillian Anderson, Rufus Sewell, Victor Garber, Susanna Fournier

Director/screenwriter: Richie Mehta

Producer: Lee Kim

Director of photography: Tico Poulakakis

Editor: Stuart A. McIntyre

Production designer: Chris Crane

Costume designer: Kelsey Hart

Compose: Andrew Lockington

No rating, 93 minutes