Published Jun 19, 2014After a breakthrough performance in The Sixth Sense and his crowning achievement in A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Haley Joel Osment eventually faced the struggle to transition out of his years as an uber-talented youngling. Mississauga-born director Richie Mehta's I'll Follow You Down isn't exactly the kind of high-profile role that will put Osment back on the map, but it's an absorbing time-travel drama in which the actor reminds you of what he does well.
The set-up is enticing enough: Gabe (Rufus Sewell) is a particle physicist who leaves his young son Erol and wife Marika (Gillian Anderson) in Toronto to attend a conference and then doesn't come home. Marika's father Sal (Victor Garber), who teaches particle physics, had met with Gabe during his trip and set up a quiet place for him to work, but then Gabe just seemingly disappeared.
Years pass and Osment steps into the role of an adult Erol, who now studies under Sal. He wants nothing more than to forget about his father and have a baby with his childhood sweetheart, Grace (Susanna Fournier). But Sal has other ideas, unveiling compelling evidence to suggest Gabe had built a device to travel back to the past and was then killed before he could return to the present.
The script by Mehta is a little clunky and predictable, but its structure is sound. As Erol and Sal work to replicate Gabe's extraordinary efforts so they can return to the past and stop Gabe from being killed, there are convincing reasons for Erol to not even bother. Would he have fallen in love with Grace as a child, for instance, if his father had stayed in his life? Is it worth potentially losing her to find out? By taking the science seriously without ever getting too bogged down by it, the film navigates the conundrums associated with traveling through time in a way that might not stand up to closer scrutiny but at least makes a certain emotional sense.
Forced to deliver dialogue that is often stilted or too on the nose, the actors still manage to breathe life into the characters and keep the film afloat through the rockier patches. In a crucial scene at a diner near the end, it's exhilarating to see Osment take the entire movie on his shoulders and deliver on the promise he showed earlier in his career.