‘Backwards Faces’ seems like one of those films that are too smart for their own good. Its synopsis reads as “Quantum mechanics and the many-worlds interpretation make the morning after a one night stand between a theoretical physicist”. I am sure it piques your interest as much as it confuses you immediately.
In the film, Sydney and Ken wake up next to each other after a one-night stand. They barely know each other beyond what appears to be the disappointing night that they shared. They discover that they are both really into physics and their awkward morning takes a different turn as they try to argue and wrap their heads around various theories on the subject.
Ken reveals that his bathroom is a multiverse portal that connects to different points in space-time and that each time he steps in and steps out he could be in a different version of himself from an alternate universe.
Sydney rubbishes this and is appalled by the thought. She considers this as Ken’s not-so-thrashy way of downplaying the awful night they had before kicking her out.
The two go at it and then… the plot thickens.
This film is a classic example of a complex story told in a simple way. This film here takes ample to the barest minimum, It is a micro-budget with two casts and one location for an over 60 minutes runtime.
Writer and director Chris Aresco even choose to leave this film in black and white. It could be for obvious reasons or just a clever hack to give this film an artistic touch. For a film that sits between the genres of comedy and sci-fi, the story surprisingly needed to have a distinct eeriness. Fortunately, this seems to have been enhanced by the filmmaker’s choice of a monochrome pallet.
With the entire film being restricted to one space and just these two actors there are almost no distractions and the acting becomes the true focus for the viewer.
Lennon Sickels plays Sydney, the brilliant first-year theoretical physicist. She is certainly gorgeous, but she shows intellect that goes far beyond her looks. Starring opposite her is Andrew Morra who plays Ken, the final-year charmer who equally appears smarter than he looks.
The film is saved a great deal by these two actors and the quality of their performances. They both deliver satisfactorily to tell this complex story. Their interactions are dialogue heavy but they still manage to show enough emotions to ensure that everything they say is felt and absorbed by the viewer. And the range of emotions they had to display included, confusion, fear, doubt, denial, acceptance and humour.
They both at most points deliver their dialogues very fast but not without emotion. You might end up missing out on some of the things they say if you are not paying close enough attention. It is a whole lot of talking but in no way repetitive or regurgitated.
Granted, a lot of what is being said is likely to go over your head even if you are paying close enough attention. Unless maybe you are genuinely an expert in quantum mechanics, relativity of time and space or other nerdy stuff like that.
Nonetheless, both actors manage to keep it interesting enough. They try to break down all the science in some basic ways and sort of provide additional explanations. At some point, they engage in witty banter with each other almost as if to see who breaks character but they hold it together well enough. Through it all, they give off distinct character traits that help present both of them as well-rounded and relatable characters.
The filmmakers also manage to decently pull off some clever cinematography and VFX feats to sell the idea of there being multiple versions of the characters in some scenes.
The story itself might be confusing for many if not everyone that sees it. But for an indie small-budget film, this was very well executed. A complex story told well in the simplest of ways.
I would score this film 7/10.
Obviously, to truly appreciate this film, it deserves more than just one watch as you are likely to pick out something that you might miss out on before.
You too can get to see ‘Backwards Faces’, possibly over and over again, starting April 11th when it gets released on Prime Video, Apple TV, GooglePlay, Vudu, Roku, and others.
Do check it out.