Starring Michael Eklund. Rated PG.
Movies have been with us for more than a century now, and one reason we still call them motion pictures is that they started as little strips of motion-capture photography. The only person imaginative and monomaniacal enough to pave the way for that development was Eadweard Muybridge, born Edward Muggeridge in England, in 1830.
In its impressive set pieces and cleverly mounted tributes to early photography, it’s clear why this material attracted Vancouver-based filmmaker Kyle Rideout, who wrote this with Josh Epstein and also designed the production. Muybridge’s true-life story—involving a serious accident and a murder trial, among other crises—certainly lends itself to melodrama. But the movie is overly concerned with this side of things, at the expense of the photographic parts, which keep finding our white-haired antihero in front of multiple cameras as they’re being triggered.
Michael Eklund looks right—I mean, really perfect—as the eccentric Brit, prematurely white-haired in 1872 when the tale begins in the U.S. (with B.C. passing for California). But Eklund’s accent is all mumbles and long, indeterminate vowels. And the vivacious Sara Canning is far too modern as his neglected wife, Flora. The script and direction make her a Real Housewife of post–Civil War San Francisco, and we never get much sense of the actual person.
Although the soundtrack by Anna Atkinson and Andrew Penner is generally quite evocative, events are marred by “comical” banjo music. There are verbal anachronisms every few minutes. And the filmmakers even manage to muff Eddie’s real-life line upon confronting Flora’s lover (Charlie Carrick), an event that leads to the world’s least convincing courtroom scene.
If you subtract these numerous missteps, however, you’re still left with the almost miraculous cinematography of Tony Mirza, getting his first full-feature credit. This seems right, given the subject, as does the final 30 seconds, which almost makes the preceding 99 minutes okay.