Timestalker (2024)


Timestalker Review

If tragedy plus time equals comedy, there is a lot of it in Lowe’s new movie. Beginning in late 17th-century Scotland, Agnes is attracted to the wrong guy (Aneurin Barnard) and repeatedly coming back to life as different versions of herself keeps making the same mistake. She should probably know better than to fall for a puritanical witch-hunter she happens to meet just before he’s about to be executed as a heretic, but Agnes locks eyes with Barnard’s bad boy on his way to the gallows and feels an immediate connection. Instantly smitten, she tries to rush the stage and save his life, inadvertently causing her own death in the process.

The idea of soulmates becomes “Timestalker”’ idea of hell when it kills Agnes repeatedly harder and harder each time in pursuit of Barnard’s wandering stranger. But all these beheadings and immolations appear less painful for Agnes than going after some fixed romantic ideal that keeps her from seeing what’s right in front of her. Sometimes that has its upsides; in 1793 London, for example, being horny for a loveable rogue (Barnard again) can distract one from spending all day crawling around subserviently as a gluttonous aristocrat’s wife (Nick Frost). Still, though: In ’80s New York City where Barnard has become a pop-star dreamboat for the masses Agnes comes across as more than slightly unhinged fan material, bluntly telling female friend (Tanya Reynolds), who appears like she could be something more: “I’d rather be a slave than a lesbian.”

Time jumping proves both blessing and curse for Lowe and editors Chris Dickens and Mátyás Fekete, who cut chapters out of Agnes’ life that show her moving through time without her ever appearing to move through time. The future is often glimpsed before it happens in these quick-cut montages, which can also occasionally feel as if they’re promising more than “Timestalker” has in store. Costume designer Rebecca Gore and makeup/hair/prosthetic designer Nik Buck’s inspired work making Agnes a chameleon across the ages sparks the mind so brightly that it’s almost disappointing when the character lands in smaller physical-scenario scale than these brief interstitials may suggest. Still, even if he could only take the ideas at hand so far with a larger budget, the director clearly loves genre enough to know exactly where to cut corners.

When Agnes falls into a cycle of self-sabotage and starts getting mean just to keep things interesting, Lowe knows it might be time to wrap things up. Writer-director Ryan Eddleston takes over the cinematography for “Prevenge,” while musical duo Toydrum lends their talents in scoring across multiple tones and eras so that Lowe can pretty much get away with anything onscreen. What gets killed here is not the idea of love but rather the belief that it’s possible to be saved by a love that only moves in one direction. “Timestalker” thrives off unrequited affection even as it gives plenty to fall for.

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