Sundance 2019 – Relive

If you stop for a minute to think about this film’s premise and storytelling physics of it, it doesn’t hold up at all. There are plot holes just about everywhere you step. It never bothers to explain why the supernatural event behind the film is even happening. Any scrutiny is not kind to Relive. But you know what? I don’t care, it doesn’t bother me even though it should. The latest film from Jacob Estes is a wild ride that I thoroughly enjoyed. I admire the hell out of it, and I’m glad it exists, warts and all.

Jack Radcliffe (David Oyelowo), a Los Angeles detective, finds his brother’s family tragically killed in an apparent murder-suicide one night. A few days later, Jack receives a call from his deceased niece Ashley (Storm Reid), calling from 3 days before her death. Jack must now race against time to save Ashley over the phone before her time is up.

David Oyelowo manages the thankless task of carrying a movie while acting his scenes against a phone. It’s a lot harder than it looks, and he makes it look easy. It’s commendable work, a reminder of just how gripping a performer Oyelowo is. Storm Reid is on her way. Alfred Molina and the always underrated Mykelti Williamson contribute solid turns. I wish Brian Tyree Henry had more to do in this because he’s a great actor, but I’m glad he was in this anyway. I’m always happy to see him.

Sharone Meir has some fine cinematography on display here (dude shot Whiplash, he knows what he’s doing), taking his lighting cues from that look Fincher created in Zodiac. There are some scenes where you’d swear Harris Savides came back from the dead to shoot them, the look of them is so wonderfully textured. Ethan Gold contributes a nice score, an emotional, suspenseful work of synths. I think Estes could have cut a good ten minutes from the film to keep the tension flowing, but it’s not a huge issue.

Relive reminded me why the midnight section is usually my favorite section of Sundance each year. These films take risks and try new things. Even if they fail, they fall boldly. I’d rather have a noble failure than a safe success. These are films worth taking chances on, that we should be supporting when they hit theaters, because once we stop supporting original film, we all lose. I admire the hell out of Relive, and I’m glad it exists, even if it isn’t the most refined version of itself.

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