Film Review: ‘Time Lapse’

Discovering a neighbor's photographic time machine complicates life for three young L.A. flatmates in this clever fantasy thriller.

Danielle Panabaker, Matt O’Leary, George Finn, Amin Joseph, Jason Spisak, Sharon Maughan, David Figlioli, Judith Drake.

The protagonists of “Time Lapse” find their ordinary young lives rocked by discovery of a machine that can somehow take photos of their apartment 24 hours hence — a find they exploit to modest benefits, but which proves their undoing. This clever, small-scale fantasy thriller has played numerous festivals over the past year, picking up numerous awards en route. It opened at Hollywood’s Arena Theater and launches on VOD May 15. Theatrical exposure will likely be modest, but the pic should continue to accrue appreciation from brainier genre fans via home format sales.

Bespectacled Finn (Matt O’Leary) is a painter experiencing the visual-artist equivalent of writers’ block. Meanwhile he’s thinly supporting himself by being building manager of the bungalow-style apartment complex where he lives with devoted, gainfully employed aspiring writer g.f. Callie (Danielle Panabaker) and their gambling-prone bartender flatmate Jasper (George Finn). She is a more cheerful sustainer of their living arrangement than the boys — certainly sullen Finn — perhaps deserve.

When older tenant Mr. Bezzerides is late on his rent, they investigate, only to find his dank apartment abandoned. More disturbingly, they find an entire wall of Polaroid-style photos he’d shot of their own picture-windowed living room directly opposite. Strangest of all, there’s a large mechanical gizmo there which, they soon suss, takes “instant” snaps of that voyeuristic perspective … a day in advance of actual events. They also find a journal in which Bezzerides worried he’d foreseen his own death — and duly discover his desiccated corpse in a basement storage room.

“He broke the cardinal rule: Don’t f— with time,” Jasper says. But he’s also the first to “consider the possibilities” inherent in their late neighbor’s invention, not excluding financial benefits from knowing the next day’s race results. Despite some misgivings, the trio are quickly seduced down a rabbit hole in which each 24-hour period brings greater rewards from foreseeing the future—including Finn breaking his creative block by already knowing what he’ll paint. But they’re also presumably locked into making decisions that will lead to the photos’ sometimes discomfiting depictions of their immediate future.

This generates increasingly complex logistical dilemmas and interpersonal conflicts. Meanwhile, incautious Jasper’s newfound gambling success attracts interest from scary bookie Ivan (Jason Spisak) who is hardly shy about threatening their lives if they don’t bend their bizarre windfall to his will. The property’s nice-guy security guard, Big Joe (Amin Joseph), also grows suspicious of too many suspicious activities.

A first feature for helmer Bradley King and co-scenarist BP Cooper (though the latter has produced several indies), “Time Lapse” works due to both their escalating pileup of well-thought-out complications and credible character psychologies nicely communicated by expert performances. (The disintegration of Callie and Finn’s relationship provides a primary emotional undercurrent to the narrative’s principal fantastical/suspense thread.) A few late twists strike the first generic note of narrative/character contrivance, but nonetheless deliver a satisfyingly ironical denouement.

Very well crafted within a modest scale, the pic never feels claustrophobic despite largely being confined to the protagonists’ flat. All tech/design contributions are savvy but unobtrusive, never wresting attention from an ingenious narrative measured out in unhurried yet always-engaging terms.

Popular on Variety

Film Review: 'Time Lapse'

Reviewed online, San Francisco, May 12, 2015. Running time: 104 MIN.

Production: An XLRator Media release of a Royal Pictures and Uncooperative Pictures production. Produced by BP Cooper, Rick Montgomery. Co-producer, Sarah Craig.

Crew: Directed by Bradley King. Screenplay, King, BP Cooper. Camera (color, HD), Jonathan Wenstrup; editor, Tom Cross; music, Andrew Kaiser; music supervisor, Andrea von Foerester; production designer, Traci Hays; costume designer, Mishka Trachtenberg; art director, Kaz Yamaguchi; set decorator, Abra Brayman; sound, Chris Hall; supervising sound editor, David Barber; re-recording mixer, Gonzalo Espinoza; assistant director, Pette Fitz; casting, Lauren Bass, Jordan Bass.

With: Danielle Panabaker, Matt O’Leary, George Finn, Amin Joseph, Jason Spisak, Sharon Maughan, David Figlioli, Judith Drake.

More Film

  • Minyan

    'Minyan': Film Review

    Best known for the unexpectedly soul-shattering San Francisco suicide doc “The Bridge,” indie filmmaker Eric Steel came out and came of age in 1980s New York at a moment just before AIDS devastated the city’s gay community. Such timing must have been surreal, to assume something so liberating about one’s own identity, only to watch [...]

  • Animated Movie 'The Queen's Corgi' Fetches

    Film New Roundup: Animated Movie 'The Queen's Corgi' Fetches North American Distribution

    In today’s film news roundup, “The Queen’s Corgi” finds a home, the Overlook Film Festival is postponed and the California Film Commission adjusts its tax credit rules due to the coronavirus. ACQUISITION Freestyle Digital Media has acquired North American rights to the animated family comedy feature “The Queen’s Corgi,” and plans to make it available on DVD and to [...]

  • APA Logo

    APA Sets Salary Cuts and Furloughs in Wake of Covid-19 Pandemic

    Following in the steps of several agencies dealing with the coronavirus, APA has informed all offices of upcoming salary cuts along with possible suspensions and furloughs for employees due to the pandemic’s economic effect on the industry. APA board of directors will make the largest financial sacrifice. The move has been made to avoid layoffs [...]


    DGA, SAG-AFTRA, WGA Scramble to Keep Residuals Flowing During Coronavirus Pandemic

    Hollywood’s creative guilds have been working overtime to keep residual checks going out to members during the coronavirus crisis. Even though most of the staff members of the Directors Guild of America, SAG-AFTRA and the Writers Guild of America West have been working remotely, the guilds have stepped up efforts to maintain the flow of [...]

  • Hannah Marks, Dylan Sprouse. Hannah Marks,

    How a Bart Simpson T-Shirt Delayed Dylan Sprouse’s Movie ‘Banana Split’

    Long before the release of “Booksmart,” actress Hannah Marks set out to make a movie that would be the female bookend to “Superbad.” She started writing the script eight years ago, at 18, based on a real-life story about how, in high school, she befriended the girlfriend of her ex-boyfriend. Many drafts followed for “Banana [...]

  • Ryan Reynolds'6 Underground' film premiere, Arrivals,

    Ryan Reynolds in Talks to Star in 'Dragon's Lair' Film Adaptation for Netflix

    Ryan Reynolds is in talks to star in and produce a live-action feature adaptation of the ’80s arcade game “Dragon’s Lair” for Netflix. Roy Lee will produce through his Vertigo Entertainment with Trevor Engelson of Underground Films. Don Bluth, Gary Goldman and Jon Pomeroy are also producing. Reynolds will produce through his Maximum Effort production [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content