Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Linda Hanson (Sandra Bullock) is an ordinary mother and housewife who experiences the sudden and wrenching loss of her husband Jim (Julian McMahon, Nip/Tuck’s Dr. Christian Troy, and Fantastic Four’s Doctor Doom) to a senseless vehicular accident, only to wake up one morning to discover her husband alive and well.
But as the days come and go, Linda finds herself apparently shuttling back and forth through time, one day before the accident, the next day, after. And as Linda is increasingly distressed and unsettled by her predicament, she struggles to comprehend why this is happening to her.

From a script by Bill Kelly (who wrote the Brendan Fraser/Alicia Silverstone romantic comedy Blast From The Past) and directed by Mennan Yapo (LautlosSoundless), Premonition certainly has a tantalizing premise. I’ve always had a fascination with non-linear storytelling, and here was a film that would have that not just as a narrative technique, but as a crucial plot point.
And the execution of the idea is skilled enough that confusion can be kept to a minimum, provided one is paying attention. The problem, I feel, lies in the general attitude Linda takes in response to her predicament.

There is a certain sense of fatalism that permeates Premonition, as if Linda immediately understands that all is predestined, that she is being shown a future that is inevitable somehow; that she is witness to this eventuality not so she can prevent it, but so that she can prepare herself to accept it when it does take place.
There is no struggle here, no raging against the dying of the light. It almost feels like she already made her decision regarding her husband even before the film started rolling, a decision we weren’t privy to, so we don’t see the process of her coming to that conclusion.
Rather, what we see is a wife who doesn’t really seem to care about her husband enough to even warn him of what she has seen is coming (until it’s too late to make a difference). As a result, Linda seems far too passive a protagonist for the audience to completely identify with.

That fatalism then translates into a vague sense of lassitude, to the point where the audience isn’t really emotionally involved so much as merely along for the ride, only mildly concerned as to when they will finally get to their expected destination.
Kelly and Yapo seem to have replaced any tension the film might have had with an odd mixture of uncertainty (as to when in time we’ll wake up next) and confidence (knowing full well this will all end in tears) that only serves to cancel each other out, leaving us with nothing but a vague sense of distance from the proceedings.

Linda’s true feelings about her husband and the situation she finds herself in never truly externalizes for the audience to see. The story would perhaps have been better served had it been executed in written form, where internal thought processes are more accessible to the reader.
What’s more, when we are presented with certain mysteries, the consequences of actions we have yet to see, because Linda hasn’t experienced them yet, there is a certain expectancy as to the nature of the payoff. Things are built up, surrounded by sinister airs. (Where did those wounds come from? Why is there a page missing from the directory?) When we do uncover the truths though, they’re ultimately, painfully, pedestrian, rendering the film’s tiny mysteries gratuitous—and vain—exercises in building tension.

In the end, nothing really quite meshes in Premonition.
Even the final scene, which attempts to leave the story on a hopeful note, feels like nothing so much as making the best out of a really horrible situation, which would not be so bad, if one sensed some vital surge of dynamic belief from Linda. But once more, it’s that prevalent aura of fatalism that the character wears like a second skin which colours the film’s ending, and leaves us dissastisfied and curiously unmoved by it all.

(Premonition OS courtesy of wildaboutmovies.com.)

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