Richie Mehta’s Siddharth has been the film that I have admired the most in an overall lackluster 2014. So when I found out that he wrote and directed I’ll Follow You Down, a sci-fi drama with many similar themes as its less commercial counterpart, I was anxious to see it. I”ll Follow stars Gillian Anderson (X-Files), Rufus Sewell (Dark City), Victor Garber (Alias), and Haley Joel Osment (The Sixth Sense). That’s a science-fiction cast with quite a pedigree.
Unfortunately the film never quite lives up to its potential, even though that potential keeps you anticipating, until the very end, that its emotional payoff will be greater than it actually is.
Both Siddharth and I’ll Follow You Down revolve around protagonists dealing with the devastating effects of having a family member disappear. In the former, that character was a father searching for his son. Here the main character is Erol (Osment), a son who can never quite come to terms with the fact that his father (Sewell) went on an academic excursion from Toronto to New Jersey and never returned. Erol grows up to be a science whiz, and his grandfather (Garber) approaches him with an incredible claim: Erol’s father may have disappeared through a “wormhole.” Faced with the prospect that his father may not be dead, Erol sacrifices more and more of his own life span to try to replicate his father’s research.
Most of the early reviews I have perused have put the lion’s share of the film’s flatness on Osment’s shoulders. That some of Erol’s actions in the back half of the film surprise us despite a generous amount of expository dialogue lends credence to this finger pointing, but Mehta’s writing doesn’t help. Whereas Siddharth was more focused, I’ll Follow You Down adds subplot after subplot until we aren’t quite sure (until the end) where the emotional center is supposed to be. As his grandfather pushes him to pursue the research other loved ones call on him to give it up. Since we can hardly imagine a movie where he does that, these conflicts feel more like wheel spinning than sources of genuine doubt.
That said, I’ve always felt that reviews that criticize a film for not being another film are kind of lazy, so I will try to articulate a couple things that I liked about this one. The visuals were bit more thoughtful than I expected. (Tico Poulakakis is credited with the cinematography.) Sometimes in reviews that can be a way of talking about special effects, but here I appreciated theuse of soft lighting to convey a mixture of melancholy and dread. Anderson and Garber have done enough talky television that they know how not to over-emote. Also, I appreciated that Erol’s beloved, Grace (Susana Fournier) insists on bringing moral/ethical questions to the forefront when he begins talking about the aims of his reasearch. Most importantly, the film at least attempts to elicit recognizable human emotions by showing plausible human behavior. In a summer full of big explosions, that makes for a nice change of pace.
I’ll Follow You Down is available for download from Cinedigm on Amazon and Xbox.