Austin Film Festival Review: Chronesthesia

The time-travel romance you’ve been waiting for (or is it just déjà vu?)

A total head-trip of a movie in all the right ways, this feature debut from New Zealand filmmaker Hayden J. Weal deftly sidesteps genre boundaries and comes up feeling utterly unique.

The road not taken is recursively taken again and again in this dreamy and charmingly off-kilter tangle of multiple love stories lost and found. Director Weal also wrote, edited, and stars as Dan, an extremely introverted Wellington barista who suddenly starts finding disconcerting messages from the future (maybe) written on his bedroom window one day. Dan’s also suffering from terrifically harsh nightmares which appear to reference events in his life that haven’t happened yet. Or maybe they’re occurring in an alternate reality? Weal does the audience the favor of not spelling out what’s actually going on here until the very end, a conceit too often telegraphed in more mundane time-travel fare.

It feels wrong to even attempt to cram Chronesthesia into a singular sci-fi genre; it has more in common thematically with the work of Charlie Kaufman. Loneliness, emotional stagnation, and the psyche-disabling inertia caused by feeling like an outsider in one’s own life is at the core of Weal’s film, and he’s surrounded the intricately layered storyline with an assortment of familiar and well-cast Kiwi faces, among them Nick Blake (The Hobbit’s Percy) as an aging pensioner pining for a long-lost love and Hunt for the Wilderpeople’s Julian Dennison. Relative newcomer Michelle Ny is wonderfully raw and relatable as Sophia, the soulful extrovert who becomes swept up in possible-crazyman Dan’s increasingly frantic search for the truth, past, present, and future.

Possibly the most spectacular character here, though, is New Zealand’s exquisitely photogenic capital city of Wellington. Director of photography Simeon Duncombe shoots the hilly seaside cityscape with a romantic fervor that rivals – apologies, but it’s true – cinematographer Michael Coulter’s similarly captivating depiction of London in his work with Richard Curtis. Chronesthesia is about as far away from Notting Hill as you can get, geographically and otherwise, but it’s well worth the cinematic trip.


The Austin Film Festival runs Thu., Oct. 13, through Thu., Oct. 20. See www.austinfilmfestival.com for schedule and info. Follow our continuing coverage of the fest at www.austinchronicle/austin-film-festival.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Austin Film Festival 2016, Austin Film Festival, AFF, Chronesthesia

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