Updated: Mar 3
A Science Fiction Romantic Comedy.
An adventure through time begins in a greasy Manchester cafe, when Ed; a hopeless in love inventor, creates a device that allows him to undo time. With unlimited chances he has hopes of impressing the girl of his dreams, but that's not as easy as it sounds.
With his best friend Carrie by his side he must fight to undo the past and get the girl.
At this point, between Groundhog Day, Edge of Tomorrow, Happy Death Day, Palm Springs and more you could be forgiven for thinking that the repeated day time loop trope has no petrol left in the tank. However, to use another well-worn trope, writer/director James Kennedy would kindly ask you to hold his beer.
Rooting the film’s style firmly in classic British humour, Kennedy recruits Ed Easton and Kath Hughes as Ed and Carrie respectively. Easton and Hughes’ comedy chops and chemistry are by far the best thing about this movie (which boasts many other positives). The combination of the neurotic, excitable Ed and the unflappable and often underwhelmed Carrie makes for a comedic duo that could carry the film all on its own.
Kennedy wisely makes this duo the prism through which we are introduced to a familiar sci-fi plot device, framing our journey through the story based on how our characters respond to it rather than what it is. Having Ed explain it with a Doc Brown level of exuberance only for Carrie to initially ask questions that only serve to highlight its limitations, ultimately ending up thoroughly unimpressed with an obviously incredible accomplishment, brings a comedic freshness to a set-up that we are already familiar with.
Impressively, the film resists the urge to coast on its humour, actually taking the time to illustrate the complex mechanics of Ed’s time loop device. Essentially it creates a save point in time that Ed returns to when he dies, giving him the opportunity to re-do aspects of his life until he gets it right. This is one example of the attention to detail Kennedy applies to both the narrative and its visual framing. The film utilises the score and sound mix to ominous effect, highlighting the potential danger of the device, only to undercut our nervous wonder with a common-sense criticism. The special effects are applied sparingly but effectively, with the film refusing to be a slouch in the more technical areas of film craft needed to tell this kind of story.
In addition to its effects, the film is beautifully shot. Key story beats are captured in a series of creative framing, precise focus and editing that knows when to linger and when to quick cut or jump cut. Even not having a dedicated music composer manages to work in the film’s favour. Whether it is the ominous moments relating to the device or the love-filled moments of Ed pining after Sarah (Katie Beresford) the object of his affections, the generic feel of the music, coupled with sudden cut outs all are skilfully wielded by Kennedy on order to satirise the common plot or romantic tropes that he sets out to undercut.
If there are any criticisms of the film, it is that it runs a slightly too long, containing perhaps a gag or two that could have been left out. This, however, does not take away from the many ways that the film uses its runtime to great effect, managing to include a reflection on the moral implications on what Ed has created as well as the objectives that he uses it for.
Perhaps its greatest accomplishment is straddling the line between outlandish north English comedy and genuine heartfelt character, all rounded off with a conclusion that you will not believe. CTRL Z is undoubtedly a standout short film well deserving of the time and attention that it demands.
Studio: Trifecta Films | Year: 2017 | Genre: Sci-fi/Comedy/Romance | Duration: 20 Mins | Suitability: Mature
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