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Backwards Faces


‘…with two multi-faceted central acting performances in remarkably demanding roles, Backwards Faces is a mind-melting freak-out; if you like smart sci-fi comedy, look no further…’

They don’t come down the pike often enough, but when you get that cerebral sci-fi low budget indie that manages to blow your mind, a certain amount of celebration should be allowed. Writer/director Chris Aresco’s film features just two actors, one single unassuming New Jersey location, is shot in black and white and looks like a simple enough indie prospect from the outset. But Backwards Faces turns out to be a tricky, clever bit of film-making that delivers a high concept; if you’re bored with the same-old, same-old multiverse as featured in all our current superhero movies, then you’d better brace yourself because Backwards Faces is a provocative look at what the human cost of exploring multiple universes might be.

‘I’m a nihilist but also a romantic, I can’t help it…’ explains Ken (Andrew Morra) to theoretical physicist Sydney (Lennon Sickels) after an unseen one-night stand; there’s something more to Ken than that, but what? Sydney is suffering from what Ken calls a ‘weird existential quantum depression’ and Ken might just have exactly what it takes to shake her out of it; he’s got access to a wormhole through space and time, and it’s all right there behind his bathroom door. To prove his point, Ken enters the portal, and when he returns, he’s not the same Ken at all…

‘Where I’m going, I won’t need pants,’ explains Ken, but this isn’t a jolly Back to the Future fantasy, but an agreeably kooky look at human relationships; if you could access any point in the multiverse, and live a ‘consequence free existence’ as Ken puts it, how would it change you? What effect would infinite possibility and opportunity have on your morals? Although Groundhog Day gets a mention, another Harold Ramis film Multiplicity might be a more relevant text; before you know it, there’s several Ken’s to consider, and there’ll be more than one Sydney before the credits roll. At 71 minutes, Backwards Faces doesn’t overstay its welcome, but makes ingenious use of minimal effects to create a unique sci-fi drama with a twist a la Primer or Timecrimes. And yes, we do get the briefest of glimpses as to what’s actually behind Ken’s door, and it’s a jarring sight more memorable than any CGI.

Aresco comes up with a very neat visual trick here; the second Ken looks like the initial model, but his face is the mirror image of the one we know; somehow this is more dramatic than special effects can approximate in terms of creating an alternate universe. Backwards Faces also has metaphorical strength; Ken’s ability to surf various realities, detached from consequences, could apply to how we navigate our everyday world of multi-media at increasing distance, but this cerebral, questioning film keeps nagging away at how we see ourselves. ‘The universe is the way it is because of the way we treat it’ seems like a reasonably existentialist conclusion; with two multi-faceted central acting performances in remarkably demanding roles, Backwards Faces is a mind-melting freak-out to savour; if you like smart sci-fi comedy, look no further.

Backwards Faces is new on UK and US platforms, Prime Video, Apple TV, GooglePlay, Vudu, and others from April 11th 2023.


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  1. I remember watching a cool SF movie years ago – it was foreign language (possibly Russian or Polish) – this astronaut is sent off to circumnavigate the sun and finds himself back on earth rather sooner than he expected (ie, halfway through his journey). Certain anomalies quickly make themselves apparent; his apartment looks different, for a start. Then he realises it’s a mirror image of how it should look.

    Turns out there’s another earth orbiting the sun (always in a position exactly opposite to our own, so as to never be visible) and this is where he is. The authorities all think he’s nuts until they discover his heart is on the left side of his body.

    • I know this film, and will be posting on it soon. It has the bleakest ending. They transmitted it on TCM, but whoever was doing the capture reversed the sequences that were meant to be mirror images on the assumption that the negative was incorrectly processed. It made for a very confusing watch.

      • Hah! I guess the effect was originally achieved by reversing the negative? At least, I always assumed so (easier than rearranging the furniture in a room, anyhow).

        No need to tell me the title – I’ll wait for your review – but I’d be interested to know its country of origin.

  2. I think the idea was explored very well in Andre Norton’s original “Star Gate” novel (which had nothing to do with the movie and tv show).
    The only thing I’m rather leery of is what kind of person seeks out a consequence free life? I’m also guessing the philosophy is completely atheistic, as if you believe in a God, He’s going to be be the God of all the universes and thus there are still going to be consequences.

    I don’t mind if a movie goes into philosophy, or even philosophy-lite, territory, but if it does, I expect it to have thought out the consequences of it’s starting point. And to not just yank my chain with ideas that don’t work together.

    So a definite “if it goes free on prime” 😀

    • Ok, so although there’s some salty talk here, I think this film does match up to the notions you describe, and would be worth your time. You are right that the notion of zero consequences does not encourage moral backbone, and that’s very much what gets explored here. So I guess we have to be careful what we wish for…

    • It takes a while to get going, but the idea is very cool. Only just out, so probably a pay-for right now, but hopefully this will be viewable by a big audience; it’s fun…

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