Year 8, Day 255 - 9/11/16 - Movie #2,449
BEFORE: I'll get back to Ben Whishaw and Sally Hawkins in a few days - Hugh Bonneville carries over from "Paddington", and from the plot description on IMDB, I can't really tell if this film is a time-travel story or a ghost story. I'm hoping for the former, because the linking has put it here, and it doesn't link to anything in my October horror chain. And there's no way to shuffle the chain around to put it closer to October. Though I am just 7 films away from taking a short break, there's a natural link at the end of this U.K.-based chain to the start of the horror movie chain, but there will be about a 10-day gap in-between.
THE PLOT: A haunting ghost story spanning two worlds, two centuries apart. When 13 year old Tolly finds he can mysteriously travel between the two, he begins an adventure that unlocks family secrets laid buried for generations.
AFTER: OK, for my purposes I'm calling this a time-travel movie - which makes it a follow up to the other time-travel films I watched this year, like "About Time", "Twice Upon a Yesterday", "Edge of Tomorrow" and "Hot Tub Time Machine 2". But being keenly aware of how few slots are left in 2016, it looks like I won't be getting to "Project Almanac", "The Butterfly Effect 2" or even "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" until next year. So let's put a pin in this topic after tonight and re-visit it later.
This film concerns a young teen at the end of World War II, who's sent to live with his great-grandmother after his father is lost in action. As he explores the family's manor, he appears to see ghosts of the house's former residents, from some time in the 19th century. But when some of the "ghosts" can see him, he realizes he is really engaging in a form of time travel, and can speak with select people in the past, and influence the events of that day. And as he learns more about the family's history in the past, he gains insight that could help him find the stolen family fortune, and allow his grandmum to keep living there.
Of course, no explanation is provided for how the communication between the centuries is possible - there's no macguffin like in the film "Frequency", where a magnetic anomaly allowed a man to speak with his dead father back in 1969 via ham radio. (It's been running recently, I've caught bits of it each night after my movies end...) This sort of thing just....happens in the U.K., I guess. The film "Lost Christmas", also set in the U.K. featured a man trying to fix his past. (Umm, I think.)
But here's what "Frequency" got wrong, and "From Time to Time" got right - "Frequency" assumed that if a person could communicate with the past, they could change the past, and then the entire timeline between the past and present would change and shift somehow, including that person's memories. But that ripple of change could effect everything, including the events that put him in contact with the past - so there's a paradox. "From Time to Time" shows someone contacting people in the past, and influencing events, but those influences, the changes he made were ALWAYS part of the timeline.
Let's say I built a time machine and went back to kill Hitler as a baby - the mission is doomed to fail, because I know that Hitler grew up. If I did succeed in killing baby Adolf, then anything he did wrong as an adult would also cease to exist, so in my present there would be no need to go back and kill him, so I wouldn't. And there's no end to this paradox. So we can assume that if I went back to prevent the Hindenburg disaster, I'd be unable to prevent it, and perhaps I'd be more likely to cause it with my presence. That's one theory, anyway, unless you believe in multiple timelines and parallel universes. But the fact that disasters DID occur and are part of the timeline is almost de facto proof that no one will ever invent time travel, or be successful in changing things for the better.
Like "Paddington", this film is adapted from a series of children's books, this one was based on 1958's "The Chimneys of Green Knowe", part of a six-book series written by Lucy Boston. This does explain a bit, as the entire house is regarded as magical throughout the series, there are tree-spirits and necromancers and an animated statue. This series seems like it was a 1950's version of "Harry Potter", or perhaps closer to the "Narnia" series, written earlier in the same decade. What a magical place the U.K. must be, with fantasy worlds inside of wardrobes, schools for young magicians, and even talking bears....
There's some revisionist history here, especially concerning the way that a young blind girl might be treated in 1805 - Braille hadn't been invented yet, so a person blind from birth might well be considered somewhat useless. But here her father's solution is to bring home an escaped slave boy to be her companion and look after her. It seems very forward for a man in 1805 to basically adopt a young black boy, even if doing so resulted in extra protection for his daughter. Would the society of the time allow for this arrangement, or would it have been frowned upon, for a number of reasons?
I have to hold the film accountable for the horrible casting of the main character - this kid's acting was just terrible. He might have been cute as a 12-year old, but he's got so few credits on IMDB, and hasn't been in a film since 2010, and I can definitely see why. You just can't put a stiff, emotionless teen actor next to Maggie Smith and Tim Spall and hope that people won't notice.
Also starring Alex Etel (last seen in "Millions"), Maggie Smith (last seen in "The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel"), Timothy Spall (last seen in "Quadrophenia"), Pauline Collins (last seen in "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger"), Carice van Houten (last seen in "The Fifth Estate"), Dominic West (last seen in "A Midsummer Night's Dream"), Eliza Bennett (last seen in "Inkheart"), Douglas Booth (last seen in "Noah"), Kwayedza Kureya, Rachel Bell, Allen Leech (last seen in "The Imitation Game"), David Robb, Harriet Walter (last seen in "Sense and Sensibility"), Jenny McCracken, Christine Lohr.
RATING: 5 out of 10 dinner guests