“The Infinite Man”
Directed by Hugh Sullivan
Starring Josh McConville, Hannah Marshall, Alex Dimitriades
Equal helpings cerebral sci-fi and deadpan comedy, The Infinite Man is independent cinema at its most rewarding. Chartering a high-strung scientist whose well-intentioned attempts to create the perfect anniversary weekend goes horribly awry, director Hugh Sullivan‘s film at first seems narratively minimalist but by the time we’re a few layers deep, it begins to gingerly unfold into something far more brainy and grand than we first imagined.
With only three actors and a shoestring budget, Sullivan weaves gold from flax. His wryly-wrung time-travel chronicle shrewedly packs enough twists and turns to keep the audience completely in the dark, never knowing what to expect next and yet chewing ourselves to the nail-bed in anticipation. Unpredictability is the magic potion of independent cinema and Sullivan uses that to significant advantage. Without the crutch of any brand named performers at his beck and call, Sullivan is able to use the anonymity of his cast to further play up our lack of expectation.
Josh McConville plays Dean like a meerkat on Percocet. When his lover Lana (Hannah Marshall) walks out on him, he scurries to come up with a solution to fix a pair of broken hearts with the magic of science. On his hopeless hunt for Lana, he’s always bobbing his little head, peaking around voyeuristically and waddling from lookout to lookout before eventually dipping into the shallows of melancholia. He’s a bona-fide blues man, tortured by his own brilliance and unable to admit a problem is greater than he. His persistence though is admirable. He’s a proven “Ain’t no mountain high, ain’t no valley low” kinda guy, but that’s likely because he has a time machine working in his favor.
Filmed in the remote desert of the Woomera Australian Outback, the bleached landscape adds a hazy texture to the film’s intellectual underpinnings. Caught out here in the stark isolation of an abandoned hotel and blasted with sharp rays of unrelenting light, everything has a dreamlike quality to it. The film reels themselves feel sun-stained and otherworldly. And here we are, right there in the moment, caught in limbo with Dean and Lana. Even though a premise so superfluously heady might be regularly taken with a grain of salt, Sullivan serves it up with a spoonful of sugar. It’s like The Shining meets Groundhog Day as a rom-com.
Veering down highways we can’t possibly expect, the further down the rabbit hole Sullivan takes us, the more the brilliances of the film crystallize. With this many webs within webs, The Infinite Man is like Inception‘s Australian cousin. Developed from a mere one-page conceptual treatment, Sullivan’s ability to keep all the parallel story lines in check really boggles the mind. He’s always one step ahead, waiting for you at the next junction. He’s prepared with an answer for every question, a counterpoint to every argument. And like all time travel films, you can get bogged down trying to untangle the logic, but then you’re really missing out on the point. But even if you’re not ready to jettison your suspicions, Sullivan’s bone-dry wit will distract you with jab after jab of side-splitting jest.
Rounding out this tactfully told piece of genre-blending cinema, Sullivan’s painstaking planning brings unwavering clarity to a dizzily complex web of movement throughout strands of time and emotion. And like an elegant piano concerto, there are so many pieces to this puzzle that each sound funky on their own but when laid atop each other, craft a harmonious refrain that’ll have you grinning from ear to ear. Like he’s born for the craft, Sullivan handles this fine-fingered balancing act with the gusto of a master.