By Richard Haridy
August 5, 2014
The Infinite Man is a remarkably assured debut Australian feature that perfectly balances character and concept to give us not only one of the most tightly controlled time travel narratives ever conceived but also a genuinely sweet romantic comedy.
Dean (Josh McConville) just wants to recreate the perfect anniversary weekend with his ex-girlfriend Lana (Hannah Marshall) but when her javelin throwing ex-boyfriend Terry (Alex Dimitriades) shows up his plans go awry. So Dean, doing what any high-strung perfectionist would do, spends the next year inventing a time machine to go back to that weekend and get it right.
As the film begins to loop on itself and multiple versions of Dean begin inhabiting the same location, things get complicated real fast, but debut writer/director/editor Hugh Sullivan manages to find an incredibly impressive balance of tone and never lets his increasingly convoluted and clever narrative feel unduly contrived or confusing. Each new iteration of the same event feels like an organic derivation of Dean’s journey rather than an overly smart screenwriting gesture.
McConville and Marshall also share a great deal of credit in bringing a warmth and humour to these amusingly self-involved characters while Dimitriades’ hilarious turn as Terry almost steals the show with some pitch-perfect moments of dry comedy. The magnificently stark location also acts as a silent fourth character. This abandoned hotel found at Woomera in central South Australia functions as a beautifully desolate and blank canvas for the movie’s games to take place in.
Most impressive is Sullivan’s absolute control of his tone and pacing. It’s easily the most confident and cinematically sophisticated debut since David Michôd‘s Animal Kingdom. Sullivan’s use of classical formal techniques from iris wipes to an engagingly baroque score make The Infinite Man fully formed and aesthetically cohesive, unusual for a first-timer. Touching on everything from old screwball comedies to modern puzzles like Primer, The Infinite Man has many cinematic precedents but never feels derivative. Rather, it offers us a uniquely original mash of several genres while also presenting up a masterclass in clever low-budget filmmaking. This is nothing less than one of my favourite Australian pictures in quite some time.
The Infinite Man plays the Melbourne International Film Festival August 6, 2014.