If you only get a chance to see one time travel movie that was made for under $10,000 in your lifetime, I would strongly urge you to consider making it Primer. But it is also virtually guaranteed to make your head hurt. I just took a moment to read over the Wikipedia summary and my mind feels like mush now.
Much like Carruth’s new film Upstream Color, Primer never goes out of its way to explain anything about what’s going on with its characters. It’s the type of lack of exposition people long for when they see a movie they consider overly explanatory like Inception, but then also complain about when it comes to a movie like Primer.
The premise of the movie itself is simple yet brilliant. A group of engineer friends accidentally stumble on a time travel invention while working in their garage. The implications of such a discovery are obvious and massive, and the way the film plays out these necessary consequences feels true. It also depicts scientists as scientists, in the way specialists would discuss matters with each other, as opposed to many movies where it feels as though these experts are explaining everything to the audience while they’re supposed to be talking to each other.
This leads to more confusion of course, but the feeling of not knowing what the hell is going on becomes one of this movie’s endearing pleasures rather than an obstacle. The time we spend trying to wrap our minds around which character is where and when at any given moment mirrors the characters themselves who undoubtedly have a lot to process cerebrally while they’re busy traveling through space and time.