An enjoyable but unmemorable love story
As you will probably already know, music has the power to transcend time. Playback of a favourite song from our past can cause us to reflect on our lives as we start to remember where we were when that particular tune first struck a chord with us. It can remind us of the people we once knew and can give us cause to reflect on ourselves and the person that we were back then. Music is almost magical in this regard but I’m assuming none of us has have had the transformative experience of Laura (Clara Rugaard), the main protagonist of Press Play.
When Laura plays back songs from a mix tape she made with her boyfriend Harrison (Lewis Pullman), she is literally transported through time as she steps back into the shoes of her former self. We never really get to find out how this happens as the time travel logic is a little fuzzy. But as the time-transcending power of Laura’s cassette tape isn’t really the film’s main focus in Greg Björkman’s debut feature, this isn’t something you necessarily need to worry about. There are bigger themes at play here as we will mention after a brief rundown of the film’s synopsis.
Laura is an aspiring young artist who spends her days’ painting and hanging out with her best friend Chloe (Lyrica Okano). She’s single but not for long, as Chloe introduces Laura to her brother, Harrison, who works at ‘Lost And Found,’ a local music store that is owned by wise old sage Cooper (Danny Glover).
Laura and Harrison immediately hit it off and after a few brief scenes of them bonding over their fondness for physical music and going surfing together, the two fall in love. Hoorah!
Sadly, their chances of a happily ever after are scuppered when Harrison is hit by a car and killed. In theory, this should have been the end of their relationship. However, Laura discovers she might still have a chance of happiness with Harrison when she discovers the mix tape she made with him has the power to transport her back in time. Each song takes her back to the exact time and place when she and Harrison added the song to the tape and it’s at these times that she tries to warn him about his impending death.
Does she save him? Well, that would be telling but needless to say, Laura’s mission to save Harrison and their relationship doesn’t go smoothly. After saving him from one tragic end, she discovers that death isn’t so willing to give up on its victim. Harrison continues to die, despite her best efforts.
As Laura tries to figure out a way to stop this from happening she also has to come to terms with the consequences of her travels through time. You see, not only do her actions change the course of Harrison’s future but they change the lives of the people around her too. It all stems from the classic ‘butterfly effect’ theory – one small change in the past can lead to unforeseen consequences in the future. If Laura had spent more time watching time travel movies and less time collecting music, she would have known not to tamper with events that happened within her timestream!
You shouldn’t expect a head-scratching puzzle box of a story, however, as the film doesn’t dwell on the complexities of time travel. Instead, this is a film about grief, loss, and second chances. These are all relatable themes so while the film bypasses logic on a fairly regular basis, you might still identify with the young couple at the heart of this tender love story. Like Laura, you may have struggled to let go of a relationship that has ended. You might also wish (or have wished) for a second chance to be with the people that you once loved but who have now gone. It’s easy to put ourselves in Laura’s shoes, even if we don’t use a cassette tape to ‘quantum leap’ ourselves into them!
There is a lot to like about the movie. From the sun-drenched Hawaiian locations of its setting to the eclectic indie soundtrack that consists of a number of songs that deserve a place on your own mix tapes (or your Spotify playlists). The two leads have strong chemistry together so it’s easy to buy into their relationship. And both actors deliver believable performances, even if the dialogue they have been handed isn’t always convincing.
Sadly, this isn’t quite the film it could have been as the love story is rushed and there are a few holes in the story. As a consequence, the film is never as impactful as it should have been, so while you might relate to Laura’s plight after Harrison’s death, you might not become emotionally invested in her journey. If more time was spent getting to know these characters both within and outside of their relationship, this could have been a tear-wrenching drama. Instead, the film’s writers only scratch the surface in places where they should have delved deeper.
Despite these flaws, Press Play isn’t a bad movie but you’re hardly likely to remember where you were when you first watched it as it probably won’t stick in your memory for very long. The film is enjoyable in fits and bursts but if you’re looking for another time travel story that deals with grief and the importance of spending time with the people you love, you might want to re-watch About Time, as that film deals with these subjects in a more thorough and emotionally resonant way.
Verdict - 6/10