It's always nice to see Canadian talent get the chance to do good work with good people, no matter what the field. Writer/director Richie Mehta takes a venture into the realms of sci-fi with "I'll Follow You Down" and deftly works around some obvious budgetary constraints and makes a solid and effective little genre picture that doesn't skimp on the human drama while it explores the science.
Gabriel and Marika (Rufus Sewell & Gillian Anderson) are living an idyllic life. He is an Ivy League educated physicist and professor and she a contemporary artist. Together they have found true love along with their 9-year old son Erol. However all that changes when Gabriel flies to Princeton for a conference and mysteriously disappears off the face of the earth, without any explanation, and without leaving any clues as to why. Years later, never learning what happened, Marika is devastated while Erol (Hailey Joel Osment) now 21, follows in his father’s footsteps and begins studying physics under his grandfather Sal's tutelage (Victor Garber). However when Sal discovers some of Gabriel’s old project files and traces their contents back to his place of disappearance his families fragile existence begins to unravel. Erol just wants to leave the past behind him, but is ultimately compelled to follow Gabriel’s research and discover the truth behind his father's disappearance, even though it may mean the end of everything that he is has ever known and loved.
It's not as easy to make a believable science fiction story that you can buy into with little to know money for special effects but "I'll Follow You Down" pulls it off as it embraces the raw science while never skimping on the emotion.
Shooting Toronto as Toronto (always nice to see), Mehta crafts an incredibly human drama as we are set up and then knocked down by the plight of these characters. He telegraphs some of the happier and sadder moments by either washing them in light or having them take place in the shadows but the it's a solid narrative that has played out in various forms in the genre. Mehta draws our attention away from the more fiction elements of it by drowning us in physics and science of which he did extensive research into in order to make the story at least feel plausible. While the dialogue bordered a little on maudlin at times, everything was still quite crisp and the human drama of this broken family really hit home thanks to some solid character work.
It's a little weird to see Hailey Joel Osment all grown up, but he makes it work as the young university wunderkind who is trying to solve this 12 year old mystery. He's really been out of the spotlight since 2003's "Second hand Lions" doing mostly voice work since then but he shows here that he can for the most part carry a film as we will be seeing more of him in the next couple of years as he jumps back into the deep end of the Hollywood pool. Gillian Anderson & Rufus Sewell didn't get a ton of screen time to shine but they sold their necessary ends of the story very well and supported Osment's work in the narrative. The irascible and classic Victor Garber was very strong as Grandpa Sal who was so pained that he couldn't complete Gabriel's work and had to bring in Erol to unfurl this mystery.
It's not a flashy movie, but is a notch in the belt for Richie Mehta as he makes what could best be described as a low budget but mainstream movie that hits all the right notes and makes for an effective and believable human drama that does just enough to satisfy genre fans at the same time.
3 out of 5 stars.
"I'll Follow You Down" is now playing in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Ottawa and Calgary, please check with local listings for show times.