My notes on the British science fiction film Anti-Matter, which premiered at the Raindance Festival.
An Oxford-set timewarping drama from writer-director Kier Burrows, this is also the study of a collapsing mind – with a doppelganger angle that evokes The Man Who Haunted Himself, albeit with a quantum physics rationale for the protagonist’s fractured life. Quite a few small-scale films have tackled this sort of paradox-manufacture recently (Timecrimes, Primer, Predestination, Time Lapse, Coherence, +1), perhaps suggesting that time is really out of joint, or that something about this sort of tinkering with the continuum is especially zeitgeisty right now.
Hothoused in a lab building under siege from masked animal rights activists, a small team led by Ana (Yaiza Figueroa) struggle to put wormhole theory into practice. Though their test subjects are mostly marbles, they struggle with the ethics of tampering with time and space – especially since they’ve taken some legal shortcuts to access the processing power their zapping device requires. Pressured for results, Ana – unwisely following the leads of both versions of The Fly – becomes her own test subject, and seems to shift herself successfully through a few feet of space in a nanosecond of time … but after that she suffers bizarre memory lapses, has a bruising encounter with an intruder in a bloody ape mask, stops eating and drinking, and keeps being told that she’s just done or said something she can’t rememeber. When she calls home, she is told that she called earlier and said her mother should’t believe she was talking to her real daughter unless she gives a password – which she doesn’t know. In addition to the escalating protests out front, and Ana’s suspicions about who might be behind the masks, a computer worm generated in the building has escaped an infected millions of computers, which brings in a hat-wearing GCHQ investigator (Noah Maxwell Clarke) but never quite gets fit into the main storyline.
Much of the film depends on the effectively jittery work of Figueroa, who is credibly frustrated and paranoid – as her workmates Nate (Tom Barber-Duffy) and Liv (Philippa Carson) start acting in a highly shifty manner, even as she begins to wonder whether she isn’t literally her own worst enemy thanks to blackouts, a time loop or the sort of teleport mix-up Star Trek episodes were once constructed around. It’s to Burrows’ credit that the solution isn’t quite any of the obvious ones, and the finale – as Ana comes face to face with her actual status in reality – is quite affecting. It’s a touch overlong, but does keep coming up with decently bewildering, nerve-stretching turns and the academic-political milieu is well-observed.