I’ve watched a fair few films in my 19 and a half years on planet Earth. It’s now my job to watch them, and it’s films like The Infinite Man that make the whole slog worth it. When you’re charged with sitting through, then over-analyzing, handfuls of movies at a time, it’s worryingly easy to wind up alienated from the whole process. It’s these kind of films that really wake me up. Those rare, truly special experiences that remind me why I started loving movies in the first place.
I feel privileged to have watched The Infinite Man, and its effortless brilliance and aching humanity will stay with me until I depart this mortal coil, or get caught in an infinite time loop – whichever happens first.
And it’s time loops that are on protagonist Dean’s (Josh McConville) mind for most of the film. A genius with more than a hint of OCD about him, Dean’s attempts to revert the events of a catastrophic anniversary celebration via the medium of time travel end up inevitably messy. Cue several intersecting timelines and multiple, semi-appropriate uses of a cattle prod.
It’s a neat concept, taking your standard bottle piece (nearly all of the film is shot in one, derelict motel) and opening it up to a bizarre array of opportunities for high-concept dialogue and intricately plotted shenanigans. There’s a tipping point about 15 minutes in where the film steps up from amiably charming into something altogether more phenomenal, and from then on it’s flat-out brilliance until the home stretch.
Similarly to my initial, muddling experience with Shane Carruth’s Primer, the first thing that sprung to mind after watching The Infinite Man was how much of a mind-boggling headache writing a screenplay of this nature must have been. There’s so many variables, so many events occurring simultaneously in such a small frame of time and space, and yet it all comes together wonderfully. Writer-director Hugh Sullivan has done a spectacular job, taking the astonishingly confusing concept of parallel time paradoxes and managing to keep it coherent, even for morons like myself.
But there’s more than mere genius to The Infinite Man‘s charms. This is a film with a raw, beating heart. There’s a reason why Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is so beloved; no matter how smart it got, it was not a film that relied on being smart. It was a film about people. And that’s what The Infinite Man gets right above all else. For all its spiralling plot and high-concept back-and-forths, it’s the frustrated, damaged people at its center that really make it tick. There’s a heart-wrenching desperation to Dean’s increasingly convoluted attempts to achieve his happy ending – he’s a man quite obviously trying to push water up a hill.
And there’s a fundamental truth amid all the whiz-banging and javelin-impaling that speaks to me in the same way it’ll speak to any soppy romantic; those of us who have love try our darnedest to botch it, but those who don’t tend to chase after it like nothing else matters – and maybe nothing else does. It’s not exactly a revolutionary statement, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it done quite this brilliantly or with quite this much tender humanity.
I’ve been inordinately lucky on the press screenings front this week. From X-Men through to Ida, I’ve seen a few exemplary films, but there is something truly special about The Infinite Man. I gave Ida five stars a few days ago, and all of a sudden I’m starting to regret it – not because Ida is anything other than a marvellous and beautiful piece of filmmaking, you see, but because The Infinite Man is just so much more.
I could throw all the stars and plaudits in the world its way, but nothing will quite reflect the intensely personal and utterly unique sensation that took up 80 minutes of my life and spat me out bleary-eyed, yet completely rejuvenated. This is why cinema will always remain, in its fundament, beautiful. For every Transformers, there is someone in a far flung corner of the earth making a film that – in their heart of hearts – means everything to them. They will slave over it, they will pour their body and soul into it and, in the end, they will produce something of true beauty and importance. People may not flock to see it in droves, but these are the films that really matter: the pure, unquestionable labors of love that their creators can be proud of.
The Infinite Man is unquestionably one of these labors, an astoundingly balanced mix of brains and heart. This kind of modest and wonderful filmmaking only comes around every so often – cherish every second of it.
As intelligent as it is heartfelt, The Infinite Man is an effortlessly inventive low-key masterpiece.