By small-scale, I mean that the movie concerns one family only - grandfather, daughter and husband, and their son and his girlfriend. There's no gunplay (except one time), no history of the world at stake, none of the things we've come to expect in time travel on the big screen, and which, by the way, I also very much enjoy.
But I'll Follow You Down has something else, more rare in time travel stories. We see the effect of time travel on a few human beings - in this case, the time traveler's family. To do this well, a movie has to make the time travel seem plausible, real enough so that those characters who realize what has happened to their family can take action to correct it.
At the same time, the story has to respect the paradoxes of time travel, especially the chestnut of, if I travel to the past to correct a problem, and I succeed, how will I know about the problem in the first place, in the future? Multiple universes or realities are one good way of dealing with this, as I explain in this 2-minute video on Vidoyen:
How can I get around the grandparent time travel paradox? posted by Paul Levinson, PhD on Vidoyen.
I'll Follow You Down takes great and rare care in treating these paradoxes seriously, in both the set-up and resolution of the story. The acting is excellent - with Haley Joel Osment, Gillian Anderson, Victor Garber, and Rufus Sewell in the major roles - and the plot is satisfyingly tight in both the interpersonal relationships that power the story, and the science in the science fiction that makes it possible. Little details such as a pocket watch being left on the ground in a mugging, and a character commenting I don't know the reason the muggers left the watch, create a straightforward verisimilitude that lends credence to the entire story. That's a better way of handling loose ends than coming up with a convoluted explanation.
The ending in particular is outstanding (don't worry, I won't give it away) - motivated, shocking, and ultimately ... well, see the movie. It's not perfect - there's a crucial scene in which a father should have recognized his son a little sooner - but this movie comes pretty close, and scores on all the issues that count in a narrative about the impact of time travel on a family that could almost be living next door.
another kind of time travel