March 1, 2015
This is a mind-boggling science fiction film with two main characters. One man is the Bartender who is secretly a Temporal Agent, a secret agent who gets sent by time travel to different times in history to prevent major crimes. The other is a male writer whose pseudonym was Unmarried Mother, who has a strangest life story to tell.
The story jumps through five decades of time, concluding in a major revelation which will make you want to curse at the screen, wondering what the hell you just watched. Telling you anything more will be spoiling the film too much already.
Veteran actor Ethan Hawke plays this Bartender character with his old reliable gruffness and grit. He seems to be able impart to any character he plays a sense of heart, no matter how heartless the character should have been.
More outstanding though is the star-making, gender-bending debut performance of Sarah Snook as Unmarried Mother. Honestly, when I was watching the film unaware of who this impressive actress was, I could have sworn the male persona of Unmarried Mother was no other than Jodie Foster. I was surprised to see afterwards that Ms. Foster was not in this film at all. That unbelievably versatile, multi-textured performance of such a complex character was played by Ms. Snook alone.
The film was written and directed by the Spierig brothers, identical twin brothers Michael and Peter. I remember their 2010 sci-fi-infused vampire film "Daybreakers" which also starred Ethan Hawke. The script was a faithful adaptation of a 1959 short story entitled "--All You Zombies--" by Robert A. Heinlein.
Given that this was a time-travel film, It demands attention to detail, even during the very slow set-up of the story at the beginning. There will be a lot of talking scenes which may need patience. There are also bound to be questionable plot points that various viewers will be picking on. In this film, characters can co-exist in the same time frame. This is usually a big no-no in most other time-travel films because it could result in a disruption of the space-time continuum, and may cause this character to cease existing. Here, not only do we see parallel characters in the same scene, they are actually actively interacting with their own selves in various times.
So, I advise you to shuck all your other preconceptions, and just accept the new time travel rules this film sets for us. I bet you will enjoy the confusingly incredulous, yet convolutedly crazy "5-in-1" conundrum it presents us as it shuttles us in classic noir fashion back and forth from the 1940s to the 1990s. 8/10.