I’ll Follow You Down (2013)
Editor’s Note: I’ll Follow You Down is now open in limited release and on VOD
Gillian Anderson deserves an Oscar for the restraint she shows in not turning to the camera and winking into the lens as she tells her on-screen husband in I’ll Follow You Down to call her when he lands. As she and their son fade into a soft-focus background blur, the score soaring with emotions it urges you to feel, you will earn no points for knowing he won’t. Richie Mehta’s new movie is predictable in a way no time-travel story ought to be, its events unfurling as though decreed decades in the past. They might just as well have happened then too: this is such awfully old-hat genre fare it feels to have been made in the same 1940s milieu to which its characters whizz back.
Richie Mehta’s new movie is predictable in a way no time-travel story ought to be, its events unfurling as though decreed decades in the past.
Then, at least, it might have made a satisfying screwball: a Cary Grant sort Haley Joel Osment is not, and a far cry from Howard Hawks is Mehta to boot; both are here as earnest as can be, leaving the movie to believe in itself where nobody else will. And oh, how it chunders along as though we were on board: leaping ahead twelve years from its prologue before going back another seventy, Mehta’s script supposes much more involvement than ever it earns. It hardly helps that its logic is so laughable, the requisite negative energy for the missing man’s son and father-in-law to follow him back in time explained away with mumbo-jumbo so meaningless even one with only a passing interest in physics will be left eyebrows cocked.
But what more should we expect of a movie where a character’s guess for a locked laptop’s password is “particle_physics”? I’ll Follow You Down creaks like an ancient staircase, and Mehta is never here a filmmaker fleet of foot. That’s a surprise and a shame: just next week his new movie’s released, and its shared themes and radically different direction only serve to emphasise the inadequacies of this effort. Siddharth is everything I’ll Follow You Down is not: a tale of loss with a real emotional impact; a strong new take on a scenario seen many times before; a competent piece of work from a talent who clearly believes in the story he’s telling. Here it’s clear he doesn’t, and who could blame the man?
I’ll Follow You Down creaks like an ancient staircase, and Mehta is never here a filmmaker fleet of foot.
It’s the ultimate exercise in comparative quality, and the films’ close release is a coincidence so convenient it’s almost worth this one’s mound of issues. At the Abu Dhabi Film Festival in October, Mehta spoke of Siddharth’s genesis in the tale he was told by an Indian rickshaw driver, a story so sad he felt compelled to make a movie of it. We can only guess the equivalent inspiration for I’ll Follow You Down, but if the end result is anything to go by it can’t have been anything near as compelling. Here is a movie driven wholly by plot, ever more obsessed with the events it oversees than their emotional implications for the people upon whose lives they impinge.
That it’s a paltry plot, of course, is the death of the film, and for all the cursory characterisation to which the cast capably commit, I’ll Follow You Down emerges a silly story shot through with stray shadows of humanity. The wasted Anderson is the worst of it, getting the closest the movie ever comes to emotion before being shuffled off with all the dignity of the plot device she is. Mehta’s—in this case, at least—is storytelling as subtle and refined as the honking score and glaring lens flare-heavy soft focus-soaked cinematography he uses to tell it. It’s a kind mind that deigns to construe it a counterpoint to the independent success of Siddharth. It’s a wise one that seeks them out to see that all the same.
I’ll Follow You Down emerges a silly story shot through with stray shadows of humanity.