March 1st, 1993. Madeline and her boyfriend are celebrating a momentous occasion: she’s just been accepted into university, and they are gleeful and hopeful for the future. To mark the occasion, the pair have wine and record themselves with a handheld VHS camcorder. All goes well until, mid-conversation, they are interrupted by a stranger at the door, who has an unsettling revelation…
Written and directed by Richard Boylan, “Timelike” is a science fiction short film that pits the fear of the unknown against the familiarity of a family home; a place which, as the story evolves, seems increasingly encroached upon by an ominous, unfathomable force that threatens to tear the edifice apart. This force, immense in scope and suggestively apocalyptic, also seems to be intrinsically tied to a letter which the stranger, Chloe, instructs Madeline to write; a letter that she says was written by none other than Madeline herself.
Through choice close-ups and enigmatic statements, Boylan teases out aspects of the story which serve to furnish the sparse narrative; Madeline is revealed to have been accepted into the Department of Physics; the letter is hinted at containing an upsetting truth, possibly of time travel; most importantly, the couple’s moment of celebration is repeated continuously, in quickening succession, as though time has rewound itself and they are living through the moment again—with the noted exception of an impending danger which amplifies on every cycle, a phenomenon that can almost be interpreted as a literal generation loss, that peppers the atmosphere with artifacts of destruction.
From a subconscious standpoint, the film utilizes to great effect the qualities of claustrophobia, harnessing a space which strands its characters by circumstance, and an archaic medium that not only allows for visual disfigurement and tight framing, but has in itself an association of truthfulness which dares supersede our conscious logic. Although “Timelike” offers no closure or conclusive answers, the film’s power may rest in its very mystery—these characters are faced with an open-ended terror; prisoners of a mechanism that they have no control over, they are condemned to perpetuate this motion until their inevitable disintegration, a possibility which conjures up an abysmal fear.