‘Things Will Be Different’ SXSW 2024 Review

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Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead have built a career on creating unique and emotionally affecting sci-fi horror films about human connection. Working with them every step of the way was Michael Felker, who started as a PA on their first film Resolution and has been their editor since Spring. After years of collaboration, Felker is making his feature film debut with Things Will Be Different, a heart-breaking and tender tale of two siblings caught in something much bigger than themselves. While the influences of Benson and Moorhead can be felt even in just the premise, Felker forges a path of his own that’s darker and bleaker with a flair for Midwestern color palettes that imbue a certain uncanny comfort into a story about cosmic forces playing god.

Joe (Adam David Thompson) and Sidney (Riley Dandy) are two estranged siblings on the run after Sidney robs a bank. As they run from the police, Joe gets information about a rural safehouse from a local, trusting a stranger out of desperation. They head to the giant farmhouse, relaxing for the first time in what seems like days as they shed their coats, bags, and guns. At this point, all we know about the duo is they’re on the run, they’re siblings, and their relationship seems more than a bit strained.

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As the days pass and they drink themselves to sleep, strange messages begin appearing on the walls. Sidney believes someone has found them and is toying with them. But Joe quickly discovers there’s something much stranger going on, especially after finding a safe and a tape recorder in the basement. Via this tape recorder, they’re able to communicate with…something. They ask questions and they receive cryptic answers, eventually learning these beings have hidden them in a different pocket of time. If the siblings can help these faceless beings, they’ll be released from the time loop. But what exactly is their mission? They’re simply told they’ll know when they see it.

While Things Will Be Different is squarely a genre movie, it’s also a fascinating character study about two siblings who love each other deeply despite all of the mistakes they’ve made throughout their lives. But importantly, Felker doesn’t try to overwrite the relationship, nor do Dandy or Thompson lean into the melodramatic. Instead, we get to watch two actors form an incredible bond as performers to create a convincing and heartbreaking sibling relationship that’ll shatter the heart of anyone even remotely close to their siblings. Dandy and Thompson are perfect together, striking a balance between bickering and ribbing, creating an authentic relationship you want to watch evolve; you want them to win.

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Felker also builds a layered world that at first seems like our own, but as you start to dig, strange secerts are revealed. Everything here is analog. Cell phones don’t work, time is told by a creaking grandfather clock, and messages are sent through a tape recorder. Between a lack of technology and a desaturated color palette, Felker creates his own version of a liminal space, one not defined by yellows walls, but by stalling time. It’s almost a stale atmosphere, suffocating Joe and Sidney until they’re about to snap.

To say anymore would spoil the secrets of Things Will Be Different, which is best experienced with as little knowledge as possible. Don’t worry; this isn’t a complicated tale of time travel physics and quantum mechanics. Felker leans into the idea of the cosmic unknown to avoid any complicated rules about time dilation and the butterfly effect. Things Will Be Different is smart and affecting low-budget sci-fi at its finest, never overcomplicated but always conscious of emotional impact. This is my favorite kind of science fiction—quiet, weird, but human-focused. Felker has proven himself more than a capable director and I simply cannot wait to see what he does next.

Summary

Things Will Be Different is smart and affecting low-budget sci-fi at its finest, never overcomplicated but always conscious of emotional impact.

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