Starring Haley Joel Osment and Gillian Anderson. Rated PG.
Haley Joel Osment sees dad people in I’ll Follow You Down, a low-rent thriller written and directed by Richie Mehta, who had a more solid handle on his simply told Amal, about a New Delhi rickshaw driver. Here, Mehta tries to cash in on his would-be star’s long-ago success in The Sixth Sense. Short, stocky, lightly bearded, and decidedly lacking in charisma, the now 26-year-old Osment is Erol Whyte, a Toronto physics genius permanently bummed that his father, a likewise brilliant particle specialist (the U.K.’s Rufus Sewell), went missing 12 years earlier.
The unexplained absence has been even rougher on his mom (Gillian Anderson, seen only briefly), who initially wonders if the dude is out there. An artist whose current project involves erasing people from old family snapshots, she’s the empathic one in a clan of scientists, led by her father (Argo’s Victor Garber), a physics professor who mentored both Whyte guys.
Things go along glumly for a very long hour dominated by tinkled-piano moodiness and much staring into the middle distance. Erol’s baffled fiancée (Susanna Fournier) wishes he would stop going all Beautiful Mind on their apartment walls and come to bed already. But he’s onto something, dammit!
Finally, the prof admits that Daddy may not be dead after all—something about going backwards through gaps in time. “You have the gift—more so than your father, even,” he says. With heady dialogue like that, you can see why the lad would risk hitting the Wayback Machine in an attempt to head the old man off at the past.
From papers left behind, it seems Pater wanted the particular corroboration of one A. Einstein, teaching at Princeton in 1946. Junior’s need to travel down the same rabbit, er, wormhole looks more like a date with S. Freud. Whatever the motivation, this humourless, blandly acted, and slackly paced movie is too freighted with psychological baggage to find anything like wonder, let alone fun, in the concept of time travel—which, in the end, is really just about choosing the right fedora.