Sometimes, a film is better in theory than it is in execution. In the case of Blumhouse’s latest thriller, Relive, which recently premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, the premise was very intriguing. Helmed by Jacob Estes and starring David Oyelowo and Storm Reid, Relive, tells the story of Jack, an LAPD detective (Oyelowo) whose family dies in what appears to be a murder. Then, he gets a phone call from one of the dead, his niece Ashley (Reid). Reassured that he's not going insane, he uses his phone calls with her to help change the past, from the future.
It's a solid start. Despite spirited performances from several of its cast members--including Brian Tyree Henry, whose short but impactful role as Ashley's father and Jack's brother, whose unsavory business ventures land his family in a deadly situation--the promising sci-fi thriller falls flat.
Though Oyelowo and Reid can more than carry the film themselves, we never know much about the rest of the characters to even care about them. Of the three family members that die in the film, only Reid’s Ashley is given enough development for the audience to invest in. If Henry’s character had been given more background, this would have given much-needed depth to the film, especially with the assumed-to-be contentious relationship between Jack as a detective and Garrett on the other side of the law.
Instead of really diving into time-travel, Relive opts to focus on dramatic family dynamics and corrupt law enforcement.What’s the purpose of introducing time travel when that aspect of the film is sloppily executed? With the plot moving at breakneck pace, nothing much is done here to differentiate Relive from any other basic crime drama.
There are too many moving pieces in this film that aren't able to be expanded upon in its 1 hour and 47 minute runtime. But there's so much promise in its pieces that the low-budget thriller could have fared better as a limited series.
Despite these flaws, Oyelowo gives an emotional performance as a man who has lost loved ones, as does the fifteen-year-old Reid, who got her first lead film role in Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time. The best part about Relive is that it shows that the teen is full steam ahead towards her evolution into a bonafide movie star. Then you have Brian Tyree Henry, one of the busiest actors in Hollywood right now, who unfortunately has a short role here, but still lights up the screen. It’s also great to see veteran actor Mykelti Williamson, who plays Jack's partner, have such a meaty on-screen role. Unfortunately, in this case, it’s bad meat, which is a disservice to the actor.
Still, Relive contains the formula for what Blumhouse excels at the best, so there’s a good chance that the film could be a box office surprise out of Sundance. It’s a shame that what could have been a thrilling, genre-bending flick just fizzles out.
Relive premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 27, 2019. It is scheduled to be theatrically released by Blumhouse Pictures sometime this year.