Written and directed by co-star Dennis Curlett, a genre-bending love story about time travel, the end of the world, and long form improvisational comedy. Also starring: Danny Cymbal, Clarissa Thibeaux, Nina Concepción, Rachel Chapman, Sydney Steinberg, Katy Dolle and Zach Olsen.
Sci-fi is a tricky genre to do on an indie budget, not to mention as a directorial debut but Curlett cleverly manages to avoid the usual pitfalls. The film doesn’t try to push too much on its futuristic elements, it doesn’t try too hard to use special effects and it keeps the sci-fi nature to its story fairly grounded. In fact, the story is balanced extremely well between sci-fi, comedy and drama, it brings just enough of each that they work in unison rather than one trying to take the lead or clashing with one another. The writing is quietly funny and brings through a surprisingly sweet friendship between Copper (Curlett) and Barnaby (Cymbal). The choice to focus a lot of the story strongly on these two characters works immensely in their favour, they’re easy and enjoyable to watch. The only weak point is the ending, it falls foul of sentimentality and feels too simple, it doesn’t quite do justice to the story that preceded it.
In the first instance, there’s a very strange atmosphere to this film, something that you can’t quite put your finger on, it’s intriguing and unusual, in a pleasantly quirky way. It begins to feel somewhat like Safety Not Guaranteed in its game of possible time travel, a motley of characters and a genuine vein of mystery. It’s not easy these days to leave people guessing but the tone that it strikes does stab at your curiosity, there’s a tension and suspense to Curlett’s directorial style which is another element that makes this mesh of genres work well together. However, that doesn’t come through as strongly in its latter stages and it would have been great to punch its scenes up a notch when it tries to up the stakes of its story.
Dennis Curlett is ticking even more boxes with this film by also playing Copper, a simple, kind and curious natured man. He’s an incredibly strange and unique character, which is exactly what makes him so enjoyable to watch, he’s open and honest, Curlett manages to bring through a gentle side while still making him feel resilient. Danny Cymbal’s Barnaby fits a much more familiar role, his attempts at success almost give the film a meta edge, in feeling like the type of script that could have been written by his character. In spite of trying to purposely hit stereotypes with this character, he’s still relatable and being paired with Copper brings out a more paternal, generous side of him which makes the two work really well off of each other.
Paradox Lost is an unexpected gem, it’s funny, sweet and an enjoyable blend of sci-fi, comedy and drama. It cleverly underplays the sci-fi angle just enough to keep it grounded without losing the tension or suspense that it provides, while simultaneously playing out a heartfelt blossoming friendship. This is a film not to be underestimated, you may start out being unsure of what you’re getting but before you know it, you’re drawn in and invested in their adventure.