Trauma is a Time Machine, written and directed by Angelica Zollo, is a personal and deeply emotional film showing how a person can be affected by a traumatic experience. Adapted from her short of the same name, this story may have been better fit to a smaller runtime but is mostly effective nonetheless.
The movie follows a woman as she attempts to heal after a traumatic experience in her relationship. Zollo’s purpose seems to be to provide an accurate depiction of trauma and its effects, and for the most part, she succeeds. Unfortunately, this film’s biggest strengths and issues are tied together. By trying to capture the depression and anxiety faced by the character, there are long stretches of the movie that feel stagnant.
Although these sequences do sometimes hold back the film’s narrative momentum, their necessity in terms of character development is obvious. Zollo builds the protagonist in a way that is very compelling by using flashbacks. The audience sees her first in her depression, and towards the end of the movie, sees the traumatic experience itself. This is an unorthodox way of forming the narrative, but it makes the brutality of the event feel even more impactful.
The film definitely hits very hard emotionally. In no way is this meant to be heartwarming. Instead, Zollo seems to hope that the movie will start a conversation about how to help victims and survivors as they attempt to overcome and heal from their trauma. Because the film is so hard to watch, the movie ends up feeling exhausting despite the fact that the runtime is under an hour and a half.
Yet despite the overwhelmingly dark tone that dominates the film, there is a positive and hopeful message lying not too deep below the surface. On a basic level, the movie is talking about the horror of rape and the nightmarish effects that it can have on its victims. However, beyond that, the film highlights the strength of survivors and how much work and will it takes for someone to overcome trauma such as this. If one doesn’t admire the perseverance of survivors, this movie will change that.
Augie Duke’s lead performance is excellent. Since she is very much the focus of the film, the narrative’s effectiveness rests on her range and her ability to portray emotion, and thankfully, she pulls it off. The subtlety of her turn means that it is unlikely to garner her any real recognition, but the nuance with which she brings the character to life is truly impressive.
On a technical level, the movie is straightforward but effective. The black-and-white cinematography and closely-detailed production design allow the film to create tension that drives the movie. Zollo is able to immerse the audience in the protagonist’s world, as if they are trapped in her self-imposed prison with her.
Imperfect yet still effective, Trauma is a Time Machine communicates its point early but is able to keep the audience’s attention for the rest of the film. Writer-director Angelica Zollo has a clear voice that will hopefully be refined even more in her next effort.
Trauma is a Time Machine is now in theaters and on VOD.