SYNCHRONICITY: A Smart and Stylish Trip Through Time and Film Noir

by Jon Partridge

The last few years have seen a rise in the number and quality of films making their way to VOD, providing a platform for creative low-budget films outside a small theatrical run. Last year brought us gems such as Frequencies and Coherence, and 2016 kicks us off with another slice of smart sci-fi in Synchronicity.

Physicist Jim Beale (Chad McKnight) and his collaborators Chuck (A. J. Bowen) and Matty (Scott Poythress) are on the verge of greatness. A invention that can fold-space time is within their grasp; however, to complete their work they need a compound to fuel their trials. The sole source of this key to their work is a company owned by Klaus Meisner (Michael Ironside), a ruthless businessman who is keen to be involved in the experiments. With his mysterious assistant Abby (Brianne Davis) acting as a go-between, Jim begins his trials. On opening a tear in space time he is left in possession of a rare Dahlia, seemingly from the future. Investigating the origins of this flower leads him down a path of intrigue and paranoia as its connection to Abby becomes apparent and the trustworthiness of both her and Klaus becomes more uncertain.

It’s hard to carve out a real distinct piece of sci-fi storytelling these days, so you’ll likely hear about comparisons between Synchronicity and the aesthetics of Blade Runner coupled to the time traveling shenanigans of Predestination and Time Crimes. Not bad company to keep at all. mind you. Jacob Gentry’s first feature since his work on the middle segment of 2007’s The Signal feels reminiscent of these, but crafts out its own niche.

The script and feel of the film veers closer to film noir than anything else, a moody, pondering piece enhanced by a dominant palette of grey and blue and lighting that makes you think Deckard will pop out of the shadows at any moment. This feel suits the nature of the time travel twists and corporate machinations the film throws together. Though there are times where more urgency and pace would be welcome, as the film often fails to kick up a gear. When it comes to time travel films, structure is crucial to success, and the film smartly handles the layers and loops it builds.

Where the film is least convincing is in its attempts to weave in themes of love and destiny. The ambiguity behind Abby overly clouds the relationship with Jim and their entwined fates engender little interest. It’s a smart script, but this seems to go out of the window when it comes to this romance. As a scientist myself I can assure you that a researcher on the cusp of one of the greatest discoveries ever would not have his head turned by anything, let alone a woman he met less that 24 hours ago. The concept remains interesting and is intriguingly wrapped around this relationship, but while it continues the “noir” vibe, from a narrative sense it fails to ignite or justify its logic.

With this in mind, Chad McKnight has a thankless task with Jim, a role that should be the fulcrum of the piece; but instead most of the film’s flaws stem from this character. Brianne Davis does well as the mysterious and sensual Abby. Ironside plays a generic corporate baddie, which is just fine, because he’s great at that and his presence does much to afford the film some gravitas. Bowen manages to bring a little wry humor to the film, more of which would have been welcome. Also highly commendable is Ben Lovett’s synth-heavy score. Paired with some retro visual shots that do cinematographer Eric Maddison much credit, the film takes on a welcome ’70s/80s feel.

Synchronicity has much to appreciate: a smart idea, executed well with some stylish production design and an impressive score. A tendency to be moody and serious squeezes some of the fun out of proceedings, and a romantic subplot fails to convince, but the film shines when it’s at its most cerebral. Worth checking out for fans of the genre.

Synchronicity is released in select theaters and VOD on January 22nd, 2016.

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