When it comes to science fiction films it’s so easy to get caught up in the big budget Hollywood spectacles that completely blow you away when you watch them on the big screen, especially recently with Denis Villeneuve’s huge and epic Dune adaptation. But because of this it can become very easy to forget about the smaller scale, lower budget sci-fi films even if, like in the case of Repeat, they’re actually really good.
Repeat is a low-budget sci-fi thriller that starts questioning about the afterlife and the big question that we most likely will never fully know the answer to; what happens to us when we die? The film follows obsessive psychologist Ryan played by Tom England who manages to create a machine that allows him to communicate with the afterlife. The machine rips a tunnel in reality giving a brief window of just a few minutes that lets you talk to anyone that’s died and to communicate with them once more. But tragedy strikes and Ryan’s daughter Sam disappears without a trace creating a rift in his relationship with his wife Emily and Ryan will stop at nothing to bring his daughter home again.
The film comes from first time director Richard Miller and cinematographer Grant Archer and despite having a very low budget to make the film, it still manages to draw you in and engross you entirely without taking anything away from the scientific nature of the plot. Through excellent sound design, Archer and Millar help to convey Ryan’s incredible machine and help to bring it to life without any big flashy special effects that you’d get in a Hollywood film.
The film explores the haunting questions of where do we go when we die and perhaps are we better of not knowing? And as the film goes on the mystery keeps up as we witness Ryan’s despair. By the end of the film Ryan goes too far and he’s starting to come across as a bit too annoying and gets a bit more unlikeable but all of this adds to the enormity of the emotional payoff that comes at the film’s climax. And it’s this big emotional payoff that really is what makes Repeat stand out. For a sci-fi film, Repeat is incredibly emotionally rich with strong characters and as a result you actually feel something for them.
The ending draws on the big themes and questions considered throughout the rest of the film and it ties this into the characters it’s set up to create a really strong finale that’s a very human story and a human struggle. It strips back the futuristic and technologically sophisticated things we expect to see in a sci-fi and gives us something personal and something we can actually feel as human beings, and this is where Repeat really shines.
The script isn’t perfect and some of the dialogue comes across as quite stilted and there are times when the low budget really shows but Repeat aims big with its ambitions and mostly manages to achieve this.
There’s intrigue and mystery running right the way through Repeat to keep us engrossed but ultimately, it’s the film’s conclusion that provides the big emotional payoff and gives you something to remember about the film showing that sci-fi can be executed very well on any sized budget.
Repeat is out now on digital.