This film’s whole premise heavily leans on that of another movie: the 80s classic “Back to the Future.”
Usually over reliance on another piece of art/media within another one sparks criticisms of laziness and lack of originality from me. Yet, and perhaps this is because this is a short rather than a feature, I didn’t mind it at all here. In fact I found myself delighted by it, as I’m sure was the intention. And really, the short only borrows one element from it: the time travelling Delorean.
“Time Traveller” from writer/director Steve Kenny (“Coil (Short)”, “Smother (Short)”) tells the story of a young boy who’s been working on a life size model of Doc Brown’s famed vehicle, and is determined to finish it and take it for a test drive before his family is unexpectedly forced to move. And before you ask, yes that title is spelled correctly.
The film takes place in Ireland, where the family has been staying at a halting site until they’re evicted at the start of the film.
Halting sites are facilities constructed to accommodate Travellers, a traditionally itinerant ethnic group in Ireland. This is an important context to have and be aware of if you want to properly understand the characters, their relationships, their move, and the film’s broader themes.
Sometimes while watching a short you get the sense that the filmmaker has ambitions to eventually adapt it into a film. While I can’t pretend to know the mind of Kenny that wasn’t the impression I got here, and that’s more than perfectly fine.
This is a delightful little story and is just the right length for it’s scope, not stretching beyond its mean and leaving you wanting a bit more, rather than a bit less.
Plus, it serves as a great calling card for Kenny. Though his talents here as a filmmaker seem to outshine those of his as a writer.
My only real complaints are the film’s themes and the connection between his dreams of time travel and the family’s nomadic lifestyle and the poor treatment they receive from the community aren’t fleshed out nearly as much as I’d have liked.
However it’s shot in a sensitive and personal way, and Kenny gets great performances from the film’s two key actors Barry Ward (“Jimmy’s Hall”, “Maze”) and Tom Doran (“Glue”) as father and son.
The duo have particularly strong chemistry and exude joy in the film’s best scene trying to get the car to 88 mph as in Back to the Future.
Doran in particular was compelling to watch. He doesn’t overact in the slightest and reflects feelings of sadness, embarrassment, awe, anger, and happiness all incredibly. I would love to see him carry a film or television series in the near future.
Overall, the film is a sweet, well told story with a fun pop culture reference that also carries gravity as it reveals something about a lifestyle and people many aren’t aware of. And though I wish it got a bit deeper and more meaningful in this regard, it’s certainly worth ten minutes of your time.