Fantasia Fest: APORIA Explores Time Travel Morality with an Aching Heart

We’ve seen tons and tons of time travel stories in our lives, especially as sci-fi fans. Growing up in the late-’80s, I had the one-two punch of the Back to the Future series and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure basically on repeat on my VHS player. So when I see a movie that tackles familiar ground in a new way, a smart way, and a supremely heartfelt way, it makes me take notice. Jared Moshe’s Aporia, which premiered at Fantasia International Film Festival 2023 isn’t the most polished or most mind-bendy riff on the subject, but it does feature outstanding performances and a firm grasp of the morality of messing with the past.

Judy Greer runs to see what her time meddling has wrought in the Fantasia Film Festival premiere film Aporia.
Well Go USA

Judy Greer, who as always is excellent here, plays Sophie, a nursing home nurse with a 12-year-old daughter, Riley (Faithe Herman). Nine months ago, her husband Mal (Edi Gathegi) died by a drunk driver, leaving Sophie and Riley spinning out. Her only help is her husband’s best friend (Payman Maadi) who tells her that he and Mal (both brilliant physicists who lost their jobs) had been working on a machine that might be able to help. It can’t send people back in time, but it can send a small explosive particle back to a particular moment and space. Effectively, it’s a time gun and with it, they can kill the drunk driver before he kills Mal.

Well, wouldn’t ya know it, it works. Mal returns and only those in the room when the time gun fired are aware anything happened. This leads to small changes, however. Sophie is no longer a long-term care nurse, she now works in hospice. The kitchen utensils are in different places. Mal picks up on Sophie’s confusion very quickly and she tells him what they’ve done. From here, we begin a really fascinating exploration of the responsibility one has when messing with time. By killing the drunk driver, they’ve left a woman and child without a husband and father. What can they do to help those affected? Should they do anything?

Aporia doesn’t mess around with attempts at visual effects or too much sci-fi jargon. The machine works, the end. But through its superb performances, it lays bare the grief that would lead to someone using this dangerous machine. It explores the butterfly effect of changing even one seemingly minor thing. The ripples continue out. But when you have such a device, how far can you and should you go? At what point are you done trading one life for another? And is it even up to you to play God? These are all really intriguing suppositions that most time travel movies don’t spend much time on.

It’s not the highest concept movie, and it has a few rough spots with exceedingly obvious ADR’d lines, but the performances and the premise do wonders to keep the audience invested, and make them care. Aporia really worked for me. If you go on for big moral philosophy concepts, and like Greer and Gathegi as much as you should, then it’ll work for you too.


Kyle Anderson is the Senior Editor for Nerdist. You can find his film and TV reviews here. Follow him on Instagram and Letterboxd.

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