If there’s anything I like better than a time loop, it’s a multiverse.
There probably are multiple dimensions, scientifically speaking, or at least that’s what The Elegant Universe led me to believe, before my mathematically-challenged brain crapped out two-thirds of the way through. And if there are multiple dimensions, and there is a way to travel between them… you know humans are going to make that real messy. In the new Canadian film Between Waves, from filmmaker Virginia Abramovich, both the emotions and the intentions of the people moving between worlds are quite untidy.
Between Waves posits parallel worlds, and is also set in the parallel locations of Toronto in Canada and São Miguel in the Azores. In Toronto, Jamie (Fiona Graham) is a professional photographer, in despair over her boyfriend, who has been missing for a number of weeks, and under suspicion by the police detective (Edwige Jean-Pierre) in charge of the case. She is also traumatized by a childhood experience, and turns to self-medicating with illicit pills supplied by her assistant (Sebastian Deery.)
Her boyfriend, Isaac (Luke Robinson) is a dreamboat of a quantum physicist who’s been working on a top secret project with some shady investors. When Jamie finally tracks Isaac down – or a version of him, at least – he tells her that multiple worlds really exist, and he can’t stay long in her dimension right now, but she should go on the trip to the Azores they had planned together and he will find her there.
In São Miguel, Jamie keeps running into different versions of herself – including ones where she is with Isaac, and ones where they have a child together. She’s never able to talk to herself but the question is: is she just seeing into other dimensions, or momentarily existing in them? Apparently the membrane between worlds is very thin in Portugal. Maybe it’s been worn thin by all that wind.
When Jamie and Isaac fell in love in Toronto’s winter, it was dark and snowy but the streets were bathed in the warm glow of Chinatown’s neon lights. In contrast, the Azores’ winter has no snow, but the feeling of wet chill seeps into your bones from the screen. The sky is overcast and the sea is always crashing on the rocks, the ocean spray and gloomy clouds melding into one another so that there is no horizon. Wherever you are, the weather’s cold when the one you love is missing.
Jamie tries her best to learn extremely hard science armed with whatever high school math she might remember and Isaac’s private notebook of equations. But mostly she’s chasing phantoms, the spectral visions of herself and what could have-been/what-might-be-elsewhere. She’s also inadvertently catching the eye of a charming, and also grieving, bar owner (Miguel Damião.)
Then Isaac’s quantum physics partner shows up. Renata (Stacey Bernstein) wants the notebook. Jamie wants Renata to explain the multiverse – especially how she might find Isaac in it. Renata gives her a helpful hint about how to keep track of what dimension you belong in… and then we’re set up for the plot twists.
Fiona Graham has most of the work in this film, and she’s up to the task. She’s grieving, she’s confused, she’s determined, she has a secret or two of her own. The supporting cast do their small jobs with skill, and the story is fine. It’s multiverse-lite – the simplest take on the subject, with the focus on Jamie’s emotional journey, not the concept or plot of any development of character beyond Jamie. Even the romantic relationship and the problems within it are pretty standard movie fare.
The script does pull a one-two punch of plot twists at the end, but they are more like light slaps – not particularly surprising or powerful, but satisfying enough to end with.
Between Waves debuts on Apple TV, Bell, Cineplex, Cogeco, Eastlink, Google Play, Microsoft XBOX, Rogers, Shaw, and Telus on September 21, 2021.