“The Infinite Man” – 2014 Fantasia Int’l Film Festival Review

Two very well-worn genres – the time travel movie and the romantic comedy – receive clever and inventive spins in “The Infinite Man,” Australian director Hugh Sullivan’s debut feature. Both genres he mixes here can be quite prone to their own clichés, but Sullivan deftly avoids falling into these traps by facing these cliché minefields head on, turning them on their heads, and coming up with engaging and continually surprising alternatives. What’s more, Sullivan finds an emotional core to all the comedy and head-spinning twists of his scenario that reveals that at its bottom, this is a story of a man who fails to truly connect with his partner, and how a relationship suffers as a result.

Sullivan’s film benefits from its maximum use of minimal elements: it features just three characters and a single location. But from these, it’s true to its title, finding a seemingly infinite way to mix and match these elements to create a wildly funny atmosphere that has a touching poignancy at its core.

Dean (Josh McConville) is a scientist who is looking for a grand way to impress his girlfriend Lana (Hannah Marshall) on the occasion of their one-year anniversary. Much like every other aspect of their relationship, from recreational activities to sexual techniques, Dean is a man who refuses to leave anything to chance. He decides to recreate down to the letter an idyllic romantic weekend they once had at a seaside resort motel, with plans and activities carefully scripted out. However, he makes one fatal error: he fails to ensure that the motel is still operational, and once they get there, they find an abandoned, empty ghost town seemingly in the middle of nowhere.

As Dean and Lana try to come up with a way to salvage the weekend, and strains in their relationship begin to show, Lana’s ex-boyfriend Terry (Alex Dimitriades), an overgrown jock and would-be Olympian who refuses to let her go, shows up at the resort. After an altercation between the two, Terry knocks Dean out with a cattle prod, and Lana abandons Dean to go away with Terry.

Depressed and alone, Dean stays at the motel and embarks on solitary scientific pursuits, eventually coming up with a time machine device which consists of a helmet with wires that users can put on and not only travel to happier times in the past, but can attempt to fix other moments that didn’t go well the first time. Dean persuades Lana to return to the hotel and try out the device in order to recapture their happier times and repair their relationship.

However, things go very awry, and instead of improving the past, time traveling makes things far more complicated for the two, as multiple Deans and Lanas begin to coexist in the space, playing out scenes from different points in time, and Dean must compete with his multiple selves to win back Lana. What’s worse, two Terrys show up also.

Sullivan deftly handles the increasingly convoluted and absurd turns of the narrative, infusing it all with great energy and wit that make the film a wildly inventive and, at its conclusion, a poignantly emotional trip. “The Infinite Man” marks the arrival of a new filmmaking talent well worth watching.

“The Infinite Man” premiered earlier this year at the South by Southwest film festival, and had its Canadian premiere recently at the Fantasia International Film Festival.