Life is hard enough in order,
Each day in succession gone,
Until one day we look behind and see mistakes a plenty,
And all in twenty-twenty.
It might seem harder out of order,
Jumping years to days thought gone,
But might that give our stubborn minds a little new perspective
And make us more reflective?
Our destinies are ours to order,
Rampant chances till they’re gone,
And some forget fulfillment rests on what we each will do.
The question is, will you?
MPAA rating: PG-13
Since I’m new to this Blindspot series and a notorious procrastinator, of course I waited to the last day of the month to review my first Blindspot pick, but I surely did choose a good one to start with in Shuffle. I have my good friend MovieRob to thank for recommending this time travel puzzler after he became a big fan of independent director Kurt Kuenne. I see why, because Shuffle combines so much of what I love about the time travel genre with a unique and compelling story.
Shuffle is as lean a narrative as I’ve seen, diving right into the tale of a man displaced within his own lifetime with every scene adding something to the plot. From the first moments, Lovell Milo explains to a psychiatrist that every time he falls asleep (which is often), he awakens on a different day in his life, sometimes as an old man, sometimes as a child, or anywhere in between. It takes an exhausting toll on him, and he has no idea why it’s happening, explaining away potential plot holes with the mystery that he “just knows” certain facts about himself, such as his age at every jump in time. While he’s tempted to despair at this seemingly endless headache, different strangers at certain points urge him to “pay attention” because there’s something to learn from all this, and indeed there is.
There are a lot of touchstones or spiritual predecessors one could point to with Shuffle, and they’re a pantheon of great stories. The choppy editing and sudden shifts in place and time might recall Christopher Nolan’s Memento, though Shuffle is much easier to follow and much more rewarding. The theme of redemptive second chances brings to mind A Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life, and the time travel jumps echo the great sci-fi elements of Quantum Leap, The Time Traveler’s Wife, and the Star Trek: Voyager episode “Before and After,” where Kes periodically lives her life backwards. I also loved the fleeting moments of prayer, where Lovell pleads desperately with God for help, though in a general sense, like how Quantum Leap’s Sam Beckett recognizes that there must be a higher power directing his experiences.
One of the most impressive aspects of Shuffle is how well it was made on what was clearly a small budget. The production values are obviously limited, which is felt on occasion, but it’s often covered quite nicely. A behind-the-scenes featurette revealed that the same living room was used as an all-purpose set for most of the interior scenes, but I couldn’t tell at all. Unlike so many small-budget films, the acting and script are also above average, with special attention to revealing plot points gradually as Lovell learns of them and never getting lost amid the flurry of time leaps. The actors aren’t big-name stars (unless you watch the TV show Bones), but everyone involved provides good performances, even the child actors and especially T. J. Thyne as Lovell.
Again, a big thank-you to Rob for his recommendation; it being an under-the-radar film that had trouble getting noticed before becoming a festival hit, I doubt I’d ever have seen Shuffle otherwise. My VC loved it as well, proving this is a film that deserves far more recognition. There’s a lot to admire about this film, from its structure and subtle foreshadowing to individual emotional scenes that just might put a lump in your throat. Stylistic choices also add visual interest, such as the backlighting that often imparts a luminous quality to certain scenes, and the color brightness changes depending on the timeframe. The director’s cut is apparently all in black-and-white, but I preferred the usage of color, particularly in the final scene.
I’ve read that many people disliked the ending, thinking it veers into overly satisfying territory, but I thought the whole final act was beautiful, a couple creative choices notwithstanding. In its testament of hope, Shuffle still acknowledges that mistakes and heartache can’t always be undone, but how we react to them can make the difference between a life fulfilled and a life wasted.
Best line: (Lovell’s mother, when he’s a grown man) “It seems like just yesterday, he was eight.” (Lovell) “Actually, that was two days ago.”
© 2017 S.G. Liput
448 Followers and Counting