The Infinite Man: SXSW Review

The Infinite Man Still - H 2014
Courtesy of Hedone/Bonsai Films

The Infinite Man Still - H 2014

Smart Aussie comedy breathes life into old tropes.

Hugh Sullivan's debut features a man wooing his girlfriend via paradox-laden time travel.

AUSTIN — The metaphoric possibilities of time-travel fantasies are unusually well exploited in The Infinite Man, Hugh Sullivan's semi-comic relationship film about a control-freak inventor trying time and time again to perfect an affair that may not have needed fixing before he started to tinker with it. Puzzle-like but rarely alienating, the Aussie import would be easy to market in arthouses despite the absence of familiar faces on- or off-screen.

Josh McConville plays Dean, a nervous man setting out to impress girlfriend Lana (Hannah Marshall) on their anniversary with a to-the-last-detail repeat of a happy trip they once took together. But when the couple pulls up to the once-bustling motel, it's a ghost town: No lovely cafe, no musicians, no nothing.

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That's a problem not only because the couple now has zilch to do, but because Dean had planned to use a brain-recording gizmo he has made to capture the pleasure they got from their honeymoon-like holiday, then use the recordings to keep them happy during rough patches in the relationship. While he's fretting about this and trying to explain himself to Lana, her old boyfriend Terry (Alex Dimitriades) shows up — a stalker who thinks of himself as an Olympian and intends to win her back. After an emasculating showdown, Lana somehow winds up going off with the big lug, leaving Dean heartbroken.

A year later, Dean's still at the abandoned motel. He calls Lana on a pay phone, convincing her to come see something he's built. Suffice to say he's able to transport them both to their last encounter, where they can spy on other versions of themselves making the same mistakes again. Dean has a plan to make things right.

"I know how to make you happy," our misguided hero insists at the film's outset, and that belief in his ability to program his way to love is an only slightly more laughable delusion than the ones many of us hold about how relationships should work. As the characters go back in time, and then thenew versions of themselves go back in time again, they multiply in such confusing ways only a guy like Dean could keep track.

The action quickly develops paradoxes much thornier than those in a garden-variety time-travel flick. While one happy version of Dean manages to keep Lana at the motel for months, working through the Kama Sutra and serenading her on accordion, a rejected one lingers miserably in another room, spying on the happy couple. He's jealous of himself, either not understanding or not caring that in time he'll become the very man rolling around in that bed. But which version of Lana is he wooing? Does it matter? And what happens when that Greece-obsessed athlete discovers he can employ time travel in his own quest for Lana's heart?

Saying much more would do a disservice to a movie that often seems on the verge of tumbling into chaos but keeps pulling itself together just enough to make sense. Sullivan is confident with his cast, and his screenplay manages, among other nice feats, to breathe hilarious life into two lines of dialogue we've heard a million times at the movies. At one point, Sad and Happy Dean face off and one tells the other, "We're not that different, you and me."

Later, exhausted by his loop-de-loop logic, Lana cries, "Why do you have to make things so complicated?" Audiences may want to ask Sullivan the same thing, but they'll be laughing as they do.

Production Company: Hedone Productions

Cast: Josh McConville, Hannah Marshall, Alex Dimitriades

Director-Screenwriter-Editor: Hugh Sullivan

Producers: Kate Croser, Sandy Cameron

Executive producers: Jonathan Page, Cameron Rogers

Director of photography: Marden Dean

Production designer: Obie O'Brien

Music: Jed Palmer, Zoe Barry

Sales: Shoreline Entertainment

No rating, 85 minutes