Year:  2022

Director:  Greg Björkman

Rated:  PG

Release:  July 28, 2022

Distributor: Rialto

Running time: 85 minutes

Worth: $10.00
FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth

Cast:
Clara Rugaard, Lewis Pullman, Danny Glover, Matt Walsh, Christina Chang

Intro:
... a potentially interesting spin on a familiar sci-fi trope but fails to explore the inherent emotional depths.

Time travel, when you really think about it, isn’t a concept that exists just in the realms of science-fiction. The way that the human brain reacts to certain sounds, certain sights, even certain tastes and smells, \setting off memories tied to past experiences; what is that if not travelling through time, albeit in a purely mental capacity?

As sci-fi often does, it takes what is already a standard human phenomenon and to a literal extreme, with Press Play dealing with actual time travel by way of listening to music. It’s a novel idea, but one let down by a variety of unfortunate factors.

For a start, as a romance, the chemistry isn’t sufficient, even for an 80 minute (excluding credits) run time. Clara Rugaard (I Am Mother) and Lewis Pullman (Top Gun: Maverick) both have plenty of personality on-screen, and Rugaard, in particular, works decently with the grief that her character’s been given, but as a couple, they don’t spark a big enough fire to keep the narrative warm.

The rest of the cast is adequate, with the rather glaring exception of Danny Glover as a local record store owner. The degree to which he is confined to being the Magical African American Friend, only emphasises the emotional dead zone of the main narrative.

As time travel plot, it’s reminiscent of The Butterfly Effect (right down to an eerily similar beginning and ending), with physical objects directly tied to memories, which make the time travel possible. However, with each trip into the past, the scenes play out damn-near identically, as Rugaard’s Laura tries to change her present but dismissing the futility of the exercise. No real variation in the events taking place on-screen, even when showing the changes made to the timeline; just repetition. The filmmakers mistake having the same song playing on a loop for a playlist.

Speaking of the music, for a production aspect so intrinsic to the narrative, the soundtrack is almost embarrassingly middle-of-the-road across the board. It lacks the punctuation of a Point Grey needle drop, or the emotional synchronicity of Trey Edward Schults’ Waves, instead existing solely for the vibe. A bland, indistinguishable indie background-for-a-Tiktok-video vibe, which ends up doing next-to-nothing to bolster the emotional heft of the story.

Press Play presents a potentially interesting spin on a familiar sci-fi trope but fails to explore the inherent emotional depths. It ends up saying worryingly little about a scenario that is extremely relatable, to do with past love and mentally wanting to change how it all turned out. For those who want this idea done properly, Richard Curtis’ About Time is a good place to start; even the trashy Butterfly Effect is more emotionally cathartic than this.

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