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Vol. 8, No. 5, 2009
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Robert J. Lewis
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4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days
Poor Boys Game
Finn's Girl
Leaving the Fold
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Beneath the Rooftops of Paris
Before Tomorrow
Paraiso Travel
Necessities of Life
For a Moment of Freedom

Danny Kuchuck & John Weiner's


reviewed by


Sylvain RichardSylvain Richard is a film critic at Arts & Opinion. He gave Cryptic, which played at the 2009 Fantasia World Film Festival, 3.1 out of 4 stars. For the rest of his ratings, click HERE.

Since we have all made mistakes in life and since we all have imaginations, there isn’t one of us who hasn’t regretted something done in the past, and hasn’t imagined a more favourable outcome.

Correctively rewriting or reimagining a negative event that has already taken place invariably produces a better result over a past performance: fantasizing the sharing of feelings we kept locked up inside for people who are no longer with us; the not partaking of a bad habit the price of which we’re now paying.

Almost as deftly as the genre of revisionism in history (books that retell history from the “what if” perspective), cinema, that uniquely lends itself to recreating the past, has in numerous guises wonderfully exploited the desire to go back into the past in order to alter an outcome. Doing that genre proud is the latest from Danny Kuchuck and co-writer John Weiner, in a compelling film entitled Cryptic, which played at Montreal’s 2009 Fantasia Film Festival.

Julie Carlson from CrypticCryptic, which compares favourably with Frequency by Gregory Hoblit, is a science fiction thriller that explores the effects of information being sent back though time and the effects of changes in the past on the present.

Transcending an improbable premise and a budget that doesn’t allow for the Hollywood effects required to simulate time travel, Cryptic -- enabled by a winning script, an understanding of the limitations of HD and award winning editing (won award for Best Editing at 2009 Brooklyn International Film Festival) -- joins company with the best in a genre that is otherwise overwhelmed by mostly self-indulgent, undisciplined filmmaking.

Nineteen year old Jessie Graver (played by Julie Carlson) finds an old cell phone she was given for her 9th birthday. She decides to dial her old number and finds the younger version of herself on the other line, whose mother is about to be electrocuted in their swimming pool. The older Jessie, still haunted by that tragedy, is resentful of her father for having remarried their next door neighbour. The older attempts to get the younger, via cryptic communication, to prevent their mother from taking that fateful trip to the swimming pool. While becoming familiar with the mind of her younger self, her present state of mind alters when the younger is convinced by the elder to do things differently. How could it be otherwise?

To the credit of the directors and exceptional performances from the leads, the audience overlooks the illogics of the film’s cause and effect because the characters are so believable. Which is to say, the film works equally well as a character study as a science fiction enterprise. The dynamic between Gould and Carlson as the younger and older Jessie is the centripetal glue that keeps all the disparate aspects of this difficult-to-pull-off thriller from flying off into incredulity.

Staying clear of what is formulaic in the genre, Cryptic never threatens to slip into predictability because every frame fulfils the function of an enigma or puzzle that thoroughly engages the audience. On top of which the directors know when and how best to introduce an unexpected twist or coincidence that not only jacks up our curiosity indices, but provides for the psychological underpinnings that immeasurably enhance what is a small gem of a film that shines ever so brightly in a genre whose brightest stars are in fact fewer than one would expect.

Against the odds, I predict that Cryptic, which doesn’t have the big machine working for it, will not disappear gently into film’s oblivious night. It’s too good for that, and it will be too bad if you miss it when it comes your way via the film festival circuit.

Director: Danny Kuchuck, John Weiner
Screenplay: Danny Kuchuck, John Weiner
Cast: Julie Carlson, Toby Huss, Johnny Pacar, Jadin Gould
Producers: Danny Kuchuck, John Weiner
Distributor: Danny Kuchuck

For the ratings of 2008 Fantasia Film Festival, HERE.
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