Relive is a cool time-bending thriller. It’s not time travel per se but there is a connection between past and future that cause butterfly effects.
Jack (David Oyelowo) is really close with his niece Ashley (Storm Reid). One night Ashley and her parents are murdered over her father’s drug deal. A few weeks later Jack gets a phone call from Ashley. He figures out she’s calling from three days before the murder and he can get her to change things. So Jack tries to solve the murder in the present and prevent it in the past.
Every time travel movie has its own set of rules, and there are enough time travel movies we can cite Terminator rules (backward travel only, at least until Genisys), Back to the Future rules or whatever. The cell phone follows Frequency rules where Jack and Ashley are living in parallel real time, but anything Ashley does ripples into the present. The murder case is following Deja Vu rules where the clues for the present are found in the past.
Relive has a lot of clever reversals between Jack’s perspective and Ashley’s and back again. Jack picks up on the rules quickly. Writer/director Jacob Aaron Estes trusts us to understand the rules without too much explanation. Jack even thinks to prevent Ashley from meeting with past Jack. That’s really deep thinking. Why would a regular cop anticipate a time paradox? He’s got detective intuition so I guess that applies to time travel. It’s no fun though. Let her meet past Jack. Maybe she’ll stay over at his house the night of the murder.
It’s still not easy. Big changes can alter the present but there’s still more work to do. Both Jack and Ashley are smart enough to test theories about how they can use this temporal connection. The ripple effects are shown as simple camera jitters. You don’t need big visual effects to get that something’s changed. It’s super suspenseful because we already know the future. When the past catches up, we’re trying to figure out what can possibly change this time.
Relive is sci-fi but it exists in the real world with real people. Jack’s partner Bobby (Mykelti Williamson) Cares about his grieving friend and follows his vague Leads, but still reacts exasperated in the thick of bizarre situations, as a real practical cop or friend would be. The relationship between Jack and Ashley is extraordinary. They remain deeply connected even only on the phone. They do such a great job establishing their bond quickly before the tragedy occurs.
They also never explain why this phone allows Jack and Ashley to talk across time. I agree with that choice. If something extraordinary happened in real life, the people it happened to probably wouldn’t find out why either. It’s not important. The important thing is they get this opportunity and they make the most of it.
Time travel movies appeal to us because we all have things we would like to have done differently. Most of us don’t have major tragedies to avert, but some do. Relive is another time travel classic that gives us a chance to fulfill those fantasies.