While scientist Helen (Lyndsy Fonseca) grieves for husband Wells (Noah Bean), who committed suicide, concerned business partner Tomas (Glenn Morshower) gains her permission to continue running their company. Helen returns to work only to suffer a sudden blackout. She wakes up at home to find it is several days later. Whereupon Helen receives a phone call from herself urging her to escape from a mysterious man approaching in a BMW. Terrified and bewildered, Helen flees the scene. Then reaches out to her friend Alex (Zach Avery). Together they theorize Helen used a time machine Wells invented to send herself back to the past to stop herself from committing a murder.
A quiet, introspective character driven indie drama masquerading as a high-concept sci-fi thriller, Curvature uses time travel as the hook to examine how people cope with loss. Written by novelist Brian DeLeeuw, source author of the intriguing Paradise Hills (2019) and Daniel Isn't Real (2020), the film is at its best observing protagonist Helen trying to make sense of a disordered universe seemingly indifferent to her anxiety and pain. Lyndsy Fonseca, among the most underrated yet versatile actors working today, shines in the lead unraveling layers of grief, yearning and grim determination.
Those expecting fast-paced thrills will come away disappointed. Without relying on flashy special effects or high-octane action sequences (a few rough and tumble skirmishes aside), Curvature takes an analytical, introspective approach to unraveling its time travel mystery. Occasionally however its aspirations towards a Christopher Nolan level of cerebral sci-fi thrills falter through obtuse storytelling. Diego Hallivis exhibits a solid grasp of the pathos inherent in DeLeeuw's empathetic script. However while his methodical style of storytelling befits the scientist heroine, with an emphasis on deductive reasoning, it still calls on both characters and viewers alike to make some pretty big leaps in logic. Happily Fonseca never wavers, investing even those wilder moments of pseudo-scientific rationale with utmost conviction. Helen emerges a pleasingly complex heroine, grappling not only with feelings of grief but rage and resentment towards a husband (a time machine inventor named Wells - get it?) that seemingly abandoned her. Her relationship with skeptical colleague Alex rightfully avoids any clichéd romance and instead adds a fresh dynamic. For once the heroine is headstrong and driven why the male sidekick is cautious and sensitive.
On the flip side the film wastes the clever casting of Linda Hamilton as a fellow scientist. While Hamilton brings the baggage of all the time travel malarkey she went through in the Terminator films (co-star Noah Bean also deals regularly with time travel on the 12 Monkeys television series), her role amounts to barely more than a cameo. Elsewhere the third act wheels out a paranoid conspiracy twist that pulls the plot in a more conventional direction. You are left with a film that while likable, even moving at times, is not as deep as it thinks it is.