A striking visual style clashes almost fatefully with the slender story in “Timeless,” Chris Hart’s feature directorial debut, which is on the fest circuit after premiering in the American Spectrum series at Sundance this year, and is entering theatrical release in Australia. Romantic tale of alienated youths, set within a cruel urban world of petty crime and theft, demonstrates the efforts of a young helmer to elevate a rather conventional yarn by giving it a stylized, often lyrical treatment. Commercial prospects appear skimpy for a postmodernist art film that’s overly familiar and not very involving emotionally.
Inspired by “Taxi Driver,””Hardcore” and other crime and youth dramas, “Timeless” centers on the valiant attempts of Terry (Peter Byrne), a youngster living with his alcoholic dad, to free and save a beautiful adolescent named Lyrica (Melissa Duge) from an abusive relationship with her lover/pimp, Tommy (Michael Griffiths).
At home, the almost selfless Terry has to cope with his depressed dad, who, totally shaken by the sudden departure of his wife, has taken to drink. To realize his dream and begin a new life in Toronto, Terry takes assignments from petty criminals, selling goods on the streets and delivering drugs. But his immediate goal, which soon becomes an obsession in the manner of amour fou, is to rescue Lyrica and run away with her.
Problem is, Hart’s story has little new or fresh to add to one of the most popular genres in American film. Though well-intentioned, yarn comes across as pretentious and naive. For instance, Terry’s wretched father spends all his time and money (which he takes from his son) searching for his wife, but when he finally finds her, the tension between them is quickly resolved with embraces, tears, and little explanation.
To overcome these narrative obstacles, writer-director-editor Hart uses a self-conscious, expressive style that relies on subjective narration, slow motion, optical printing, stills and dissolves. But these devices, particularly Terry’s narration, not only underline the story’s conventionality, they also make it more fragmented and emotionally distancing than necessary.
As the romantically doomed couple, Byrne and Duge are credible and appealing, and they are surrounded by a decent supporting ensemble.
Chris Norr’s color-noir lensing of vacant buildings, garages and neon signs heightens the cold, impersonal and alienating side of New York. Other tech credits are also attention-grabbing, considering the film’s low budget.