What would your life be like if you didn’t go to work the day an accident would otherwise change everything? How much of your future might shift if you decide to simply alter your schedules to better accommodate picking up your child from school? One question seems bigger than the other, yet the second may actually impact what occurs next more. Because you can’t know for certain. And there aren’t any do-overs. Perhaps it’s better that way, to accept and move on rather than risk an even worse fate. Or is it?

That’s what writer-director Jared Moshé seeks to contemplate with his grounded science fiction drama Aporia. In it exists a woman named Sophie (Judy Greer) who has recently watched her life fall apart. Her husband Mal (Edi Gathegi) was the victim of a drunk-driving collision eight months prior, and the void left has all but shattered their family. Their daughter Riley (Faithe Herman) has completely shut down; the few times Sophie and her talk prove the furthest thing from constructive. Add work as a longterm care nurse and juggling everything has become impossible. Beyond just grief, they’ve been consumed by despair.

Thankfully, Jabir (Payman Maadi) has a solution. What started as a home-brew time machine he and Mal used as an outlet for their physics-driven minds––minds the American scientific community has rejected (the former’s education was in the Middle East, the latter’s loss of an arm somehow renders him a liability)––has taken on new form. Where there wasn’t enough power to send a person through time, there is enough to send a particle. What makes this mass of metal and wires in Jabir’s spare bedroom different than a “normal” particle accelerator, however, is that it can also coordinate where that particle goes. Including a person’s brain.

It won’t shock you that Sophie is all too quick to press return on the keyboard when the prospect of killing the man who murdered her husband months before the accident to bring Mal back is presented. In a different film the result would push forward on the initial belief it won’t work. It can’t work. That Jabir’s theories were just fantasy and Sophie shouldn’t waste more time on false hope. In this one, however, Mal does come back. That’s not a spoiler. It’s the catalyst for everything that follows. Because what does his return truly mean? What changed? What’s the moral cost? Can you justify killing a killer if doing so also ruins the lives of an innocent family?

That’s where the intrigue behind Aporia lies. Not the experiment itself, but the aftermath. Theory no longer applies; this is the real world now. Real costs. Sophie and Riley may have their patriarch back, but Kara (Whitney Morgan Cox) and Aggie (Veda Cienfuegos) now lose theirs. Maybe that’s an acceptable loss. Maybe Sophie, Mal, and Jabir can live with knowing the “better” man lived. If not, maybe they can try to make things better for the new victims––provide the support they didn’t receive when Mal died––and if they can wrap their heads around such justifications, maybe they can even expand the machine’s reach. Stop mass shooters. Terrorists. Dictators.

Don’t think Moshé hasn’t thought through the problems a device like this inevitably raises. Don’t think his characters haven’t, either. Mal and Jabir are highly capable scientists with kind hearts forged in tragedy to take pause when Sophie’s outside perspective brings up the emotional cost of their decisions. Humans are imperfect, though. We have blindspots and our empathy can unintentionally destroy light just as easily as our malice creates darkness. Every move made––no matter how carefully conceived––will thus have unforeseen consequences. Because no one truly knows how much one person’s life impacts the world. Or how resetting that world through them means every dice roll afterwards is reset too.

I love these kinds of character-driven high concept films. Where it is interesting to see these ideas in action films or amongst scientists in high pressure situations, time travel is never more relatable than when it affects regular people at home. Aporia feels akin to Primer in that way. Not as heady, but there are definitely aesthetic parallels. Merge that film’s intelligence with the aching heart of Little Fish (not a time travel movie, but its use of memory is similar and a crucial comparison point to how Moshé interacts with time travel) and you get close to anticipating the vibe on-screen.

Add great performances from Maadi and Gathegi with a stellar lead turn from the always underappreciated Greer––her sense of compassion and sacrifice once Sophie looks down to see exactly what they’ve set in motion is inspiring, heartbreaking in equal measure––and it’s difficult not to lose yourself in this trio’s ethical dilemma. That Moshé has also built a fail safe to deliver a satisfying conclusion worthy of the script’s themes is icing on the cake. Because the lives affected by such lofty ambitions always stretch beyond one single moment. Grief is about more than what’s lost––it’s also about what can be found.

Aporia had its world premiere at the Fantasia International Film Festival.

Grade: B+

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