Time for another?

A look at the film ‘Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel’ directed by Gareth Carrivick.

By night, I’m Rob Roy the critic/blogger/chocolate consumer, but by day, I’m Rob Roy the office worker. I work in one of those offices where everyone has waaaaay too much work to be able to effectively manage on their own, but carry on anyway because they don’t have much of a choice.

Sometimes it feels a lot like they’re all managing to cope with grace and dignity while I sort of shriek like  loony and clutch my head in my hands and fret about what the hell I’ll do when it’s discovered that most of my time is spent worrying about what I’ll do next rather than actually getting anything done.

As a result, Mrs Roy often arrives home from her job to find me huddled up in a dark corner, rocking backwards and forwards and dribbling while muttering things like “It’s all gone to hell,” and “For goodness sake you must believe me, the explosion wasn’t my fault.”

We have ways to calm me down though. Chocolate and ice cream help to a degree but by far the best way to de-stress is deep meditation. I’m not talking about sitting cross-legged in an orange robe and chanting ‘Ohmmm’, but rather relaxation techniques that go beyond just relaxing.

It’s a little bit like sensory deprivation. I lay very still with my eyes covered and I’ll either play some brown noise or binaural tones into some earphones. The idea is that I can’t see of hear or interact with any of the world around me. I lose all concept of time and I sink into a relaxation state that allows for either the subconscious to take over or I fall into a state of semi-sleep.

These sessions last anywhere from two to three and a half hours. When I come out of them (with a little help from Mrs Roy who often gently advises me it’s coming up on midnight and time for some proper sleep), I’m feeling so relaxed and calm that I almost don’t recognise myself.

Therefore, I can safely say that total lack of awareness of time, for me anyway, is a wonderful thing.

Quite the opposite, however, can be said for the three friends who drive the story in the film ‘Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel’. They have a distinct awareness of time and it all looks rather stressful.

This is, in case you’re a cretin and hadn’t established so from the film title, a time-travel film. But before you lose interest in this for being an absurd sci-fi or a mind-bending paradoxical thriller, this is a time-travel film with a bit of a difference.

It’s a clever little film really. It manages to be a simple affair set – with the exception of the first five minutes – entirely in one pub, yet has enough variety in the story and the exploration of the different layers of time to make it feel sufficiently nerdy/geeky/intelligent for those who need it to be.

So if time travel appeals to you, you’re quids-in already. If you don’t really give two-hoots, then you’ll still find a good British comedy film that will give you a few good chuckles along the way.

It’s not a long ride, only seventy-five minutes before you’re deep enough into the end credits that you’ll start reaching for remote controls. Because of this, it lacks a good meaty feel and seems to end half an hour before you want it to. The only up-side is that it never outstays its welcome and leaves while it’s ahead, never getting too big for its boots and trying to be super-silly or super-smart.

Special effects are kept to a minimum. Partly because the budget didn’t allow, but more importantly because they would have taken so much away from what is an honest and charming little film. Oh God. ‘Charming’… What an awful word to use. Problem is, I can’t think of another one that would serve it more appropriately.

Saying something is ‘charming’ feels a bit like saying, “it’s cheap and cheerful”. Well, I suppose that’s right, but ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ deserves more than to be labelled as cheap and cheerful. If it were given too much money for gloss and glamour then it would have lost all its character and turned into any other movie.

But there’s still a little glamour to be had. Anna Faris makes an appearance and is as radiant and delightful as ever. Her easy going nature makes her a great fit for this quirky and light-hearted feature.

We also get a small guest appearance from Meredith MacNeill who seems to be the unfortunate victim of an unfortunate camera angle that makes her nostrils look like both sides of the Dartford tunnel. There are many who find her quite attractive but features that mimic river crossings is not a quality I desire in people.

There’s not much of a soundtrack to brag about; simple backgroundy stuff that just sets the tone for certain scenes in an almost unnoticed manner. The one exception being a particularly excruciating cover version of an already ropey song that closes the film. It’s an unfortunate choice of song and it leaves a nasty taste that lingers. A sad final moment to an otherwise very palatable piece of entertainment.

But the strengths are not in the soundtrack or the choice of actress who bears more than a striking resemblance to a dual tunnel system, it is in the quality of the writing and the way it has been transferred to our screens.

There is enough there to keep keen movie-buffs happy for an hour or so with more nods and references than you’d expect in a title that isn’t an outright spoof. Performances that are low-key and not overacted and camera work that frames everything nicely, but on repeated viewings, yields neat little surprises for those who know how the story is playing out.

So however you like to relax, whether it’s meditating in a time-void, setting fire to peoples wheelie-bins and running away or maybe just settling down in front of the big black rectangle to watch a film, ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ will have just enough to allow you to unwind a little and still leave time for you to do whatever else you need to do after a long day of flagging emails to be looked at tomorrow.

A reason why you should watch it: A fantastic opportunity to be that irritating person who recognises and points out all the little pop-culture references to make yourself feel smarter than other people.

A reason why you shouldn’t watch it: The God-awful cover version of the God-awful song ‘The Final Countdown’ that plays in the end credits.

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