[Fantasia 2023 Review] APORIA

This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, APORIA being covered here wouldn’t exist.

Nothing is certain in life. That fact gets thrown further into focus when presented with the death of a loved one. Faced with a litany of what-ifs amidst tragedy, we’re left wondering about the choices we’ve made, potential scenarios, and more. This is something writer/director Jared Moshé dissects in his sci-fi drama, APORIA. Starring Judy Greer, Edi Gathegi, and Payman Maadi, audiences are taken through an emotional journey dissecting the question, “If we had the chance to kill someone to restore balance, would we?”

After losing her husband, Malcolm (Gathegi), in an accident caused by a drunk driver, Sophie (Greer) is lost in trying to pick up the pieces. Her daughter, Riley (Faithe Herman), refuses to talk to her, instead shutting everyone out and giving up her hobbies. Thrust into single motherhood, Sophie is walking a tightrope of mental decline, something that her husband’s friend, Jabir (Maadi), picks up on. This is when he presents her with something fantastical – a machine that can kill anyone within a certain time frame.

At first, she resists. Why should she put faith in something straight out of a science fiction scenario? But a little thought bubble of hope forms. What if killing the man who killed her husband brings him back? What if? Sophie is at a crossroads – to kill the man and bring back her husband or continue to struggle under the weight that his loss continues to bring.

APORIA taps into its meaning

The road to innovation is paved with uncertainty. As a throughline, doubt and uncertainty permeate the fabric of APORIA. Presented with the moral dilemma in place, each decision made by the adults in the film is motivated by answering the question of what-if. Tapping into these all-too-relatable feelings, Moshé creates a compelling piece that prompts us to think, but also leaves things open-ended for viewers to interpret.

Centering APORIA are the performances from its core cast. Judy Greer is the beating heart of the film. Her expressive face tells us instantly where we are with Sophie on her journey. As she navigates the moral dilemma presented to her and the various consequences that erupt from her decisions, she hooks us in.

Providing balance is Edi Gathegi’s Malcolm. Knowing the impact Malcolm had on Riley, it’s no wonder that the father lights up when around his child. He’s completely transformed in these scenes, likely due to encouraging the scientific exploration in her, but reverts to a more centered calm when with Sophie. The more logical half of the couple, it’s clear he is the one that tethers Sophie. Without her, she is adrift and, when Malcolm is revealed on screen, Gathegi’s performance showcases why this makes sense.

Not to be missed is Payman Maadi. His character Jabir is the reason why the ball starts rolling in APORIA. Motivated by science, but also tragedy, Maadi’s performance should not be slept on. If Sophie is emotional and Malcolm is more logical, Jabir is the perfect balance between the two sides.

This grounded sci-fi drama would be nothing without the machine at the plot’s center. Some might expect something high-tech in association with the sci-fi genre. The design – honestly – is what keeps things grounded in that uncertainty that APORIA thrives. Jabir’s background as a physicist as well as his current source of income sell the believability of the machine. It is made up of wires and cords and lacks that sleek and sexy design we’d expect. But it reminds us of the tenuous nature of physics and how innovative Jabir is.

Much appreciated, especially as someone with a limited understanding of physics, is how the quantum physics portion of the machine is explained. There are simple rules to follow for the trio to use the machine. We see as these rules, particularly the third one, are applied throughout the film, and impact the characters involved. Keeping things simple, especially when it comes to time-related plot points, is helpful in selling the concept to viewers, and Moshé did well in ensuring we could easily follow along even with science dumps.

Well, the sci-fi element looms big in APORIA, this is a dramatic love story. It is love that prompts Sophie and Jabir to make the decisions they do. The whole creation of the machine stems from Jabir’s love for his family. This shines from the screen. Coupled with strong performances and well-thought-out science, Moshé has created a film with a lot of heart that confronts uncertainty head-on.

APORIA had its world premiere at the 2023 Fantasia International Film Festival. The film arrives in theaters August 11th.

Sarah Musnicky
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