Repeat (2021) Review
Repeat is one of those films that falls somewhere between science fiction and a tale of the supernatural if not one of outright horror. In this case using technology to speak to the dead. That’s been done before, but unlike Frequencies, or the more recent Dead Air, this isn’t just a radio with supernatural powers. It’s a device developed by cognitive psychologist Ryan (Tom England, Cosmos).
But despite this potential breakthrough his life is in shambles. His daughter Sam (Ellila-Jean Wood) has been missing for over a year. The effects of this have strained his marriage to Emily (Charlotte Ritchie, Ghosts, Call the Midwife) and his experiments have caused his reputation as a professor to suffer. The one bright spot in his life is the fact he hasn’t been able to contact her with his device, giving him hope that she’s still alive.
Writer Richard Miller and co-director Grant Archer have created a low budget, emotionally charged film that uses a glowing copper coil to probe what lies beyond this mortal coil. And that is about all Repeat gives us in the way of effects. It’s a delightfully low-fi piece of equipment that looks like something cobbled together in someone’s basement. Or stolen from the set of a film from the 1960s or 70s. But combined with the disembodied voices of those it contacts, it’s quite effective.
But Repeat isn’t about the technology or the science of what Ryan is doing. Miller and Archer could have replaced the machine with a medium and still told the same story. It’s a film about people and emotions told through a science fiction filter. The effects of Ryan’s obsessive quest to perfect his invention and find Sam on himself and those around him are of primary importance here. Then comes some musing about what happens when we die. And after that the actual science of it all.
There are several flashbacks worked into Repeat’s story These let us see Sam and make her a real person rather than just a name. They also do a better job of illustrating the grief they’ve endured and the damage it’s done over the last year than simply talking about it. They’re used effectively, more so than in most films, but at times they seemed to slow the film’s present day story and its progress towards its conclusion.
And that conclusion is probably not what you’re expecting. I won’t say too much and risk spoiling it, I’ll just say it packs a punch.
Shot on a tight schedule with a five person crew and what appears to have been a five quid budget, Repeat benefits from some impressive cinematography that makes Ryan’s basement lab, where much of the film takes place, seem almost oppressively small and claustrophobic.
It also benefits from two strong performances from England and Ritchie who do a great job of selling their grief and his obsession. They’re entirely believable as a couple who are falling apart while still caring for one another.
I know I frequently complain about films that are too long on talk and drama and short on action but this is one time where I don’t have many complaints at all. Repeat hits the marks and delivers a story that held my attention right through to the end. It’s an excellent example of what low budget science fiction can be when done right.
Repeat was released to UK Digital platforms November 15th. Gravitas Ventures will release it in the US and Canada on November 19th. You can check the film’s Facebook page or the filmmaker’s website for more details.