Director Jay Cheel's first movie Beauty Day taught people that documentaries could look cinematic and beautiful while still conveying their message. I have eagerly awaited his next film, and got the chance to see it at the San Francisco DocFest. It was very out of the way for me, and shown in a room the size of a large living room. However, I can unequivocally say that I was not disappointed.
The opening scene to an ancient wonder in Ireland was lovely, though seemed to me disconnected from the rest of the film. But soon enough, we meet our two subjects, and the movie gets going. Overall, it was a great film, and well worth the effort it might take to see it, at least until it comes out on DVD or Bluray, when all will be able to watch and appreciate it. Rob Niosi is very aware of how his obsession with building a perfect replica of the titular time machine from the 1960 film by George Pal can seem crazy, and he sprinkles self-depreciating humor throughout when he speaks. He's actually quite funny.
Physicist Ron Mallett's story is a bit more somber and serious, but just as affecting. The time machine that he seeks to build is a literal one, as he remained driven throughout his life in the desire to change a moment that altered his life to a different course at a young age.
The mixing of these two stories was very well orchestrated by Cheel, often having the speaking of one subject over the actions of the other, showing how in many ways they are similar. It is almost a perfect film.
I only had two problems with the movie. One was some of the music choices, which seemed jarring at a couple of moments. The other had to do with Mallett. Without going into spoilers, he speaks of a breakthrough in his work, a conclusion reached, that was how he was going to make his mark. His special insight into space-time. But we as viewers only had his word that is was a breakthrough, or that it even had any merit at all. Right then, I thought that another physicist, maybe one the audience already knows and trusts such as Michio Kaku, should have come in to say that yes, this idea needs to be explored. He could have spoken of how Mallett is a great physicist, or a good one, or an outlier with kooky ideas. An outside view would have been great so that we could get more of an idea as to if his peers think of him as a loon, or if he's done great work. We only have Dr. Mallett's word himself to go on. I just felt at that one moment that I could have used another opinion, even if that meant taking a brief side step to the momentum of the film.
Overall, a great documentary, and a damn good movie, and I would recommend it to all, check this thing out, when you get the chance.
4 1/2 out of 5 stars.