Categories: Sci-Film Reviews

Time Lapse (2014) Explained

In a quiet residential complex, caretaker manager Finn (Matt O’Leary) together with his girlfriend Callie (Danielle Panabaker) and best friend Jasper (George Finn) investigate the apartment of a dead scientist, only to discover a mysterious camera pointed directly at their living room window capable of taking photos 24 hours into the future. Rather than calling the police, the housemates use the device to make their wildest dreams come true, but after exploiting the camera for personal gain they soon find themselves blindly recreating whatever future the photos show them, or else risk the perils of messing with time, in this paradox-filled sci-fi thriller.


As part of his research, the dead scientist (Mr Bezzerides) set his strange device to take a photo of the housemates’ lounge at 8pm each night, but one day when apparently tinkering with his camera and viewing events even further forward he is horrified to see a Polaroid taken 2 weeks into the future appearing to depict his own death. The photo shows a blood stained window, the scientist’s hat on the sofa, and a painting of a thorium canister, and whilst investigating his basement lock-up where the thorium is kept he accidentally causes the accident which leads to his own demise. The whole story we subsequently see in Time Lapse is the series of events which ultimately lead up to that photo depicting the scientist’s apparent murder.

Meanwhile, we get to see the trio of friends use the camera for their own selfish purposes, including Finn using the photos to overcome artist’s block and reveal his next future painting, Jasper making bundles of cash betting on the following day’s racing results, and Callie earning enough money to give up her waiting job and focus on becoming an author. We later find out Callie had discovered the device also takes another photo at 8am and after removing all the photos on the scientist’s wall showing her secret affair with Jasper months earlier, she then starts using the 8am morning photo shoot to communicate with herself, and send/messages in order to shape events and rekindle her relationship with Finn.

Bootstrap Paradox

In any story involving backward time travel we can expect a number of confusing paradoxes to occur. In the case of Time Lapse, these involve a series of daily bootstrap or ontological paradoxes in which information, rather than a person, is sent back in time to create a circular loop in which the information does not appear to have a discernible point of origin. Examples in the movie include Finn’s paintings, which he create only after seeing them in a future photo showing them already painted, raising the question where did the inspiration for the paintings come from in the first place? Other bootstrap paradoxes include Callie’s messages to herself, such as reminding herself to knock over the coat rack for the photo because she saw a future photo with the coat rack lying on the floor, an idea which has no discernible point of origin. Jasper’s gambling results are a further example of a bootstrap paradox as in true chicken-and-egg fashion the camera provides all the results, and Jasper then simply stands in front of the camera with the results written on a board before writing them down and sending the information back to himself 24 hours earlier.

Self-fulfilling Prophecy

There also appears to be strong elements of self-fulfilling prophecy in the story, with the characters receiving a photo from 24 hours in the future (prophesy) before setting about fulfilling the scene in the exact same way as shown. Perhaps, Mr Bezzerides provides the most extreme example of a self-fulfilling prophecy as he thinks he sees his own death two weeks into the future before mailing the photo to his colleague Dr. Heidecker and setting off to inadvertently cause the very accident which kills him. In fact, Time Lapse appears replete with numerous examples of predestination paradoxes as at no point in the movie do the characters ever seem to deviate from the future events which are shown to them. Furthermore, when Callie does try to stick a ‘DON’T GET CAUGHT IN THE WINDOW’ (by Finn at 8am) note on the window at the end of the story, the message falls off  thus ensuring the future depicted in the photo of the scientist’s apparent murder remains exactly the same.

Can They Change The Future?

Early on in the movie, Callie explains to Finn and Jasper her belief that failing to obey the events shown in the photos would ultimately lead to their ending up like Mr Bezzerides. As she describes whilst sketching her timeline drawing:

“The camera spits out a photo of us in the future. Then we go about our day making a series of decisions that lead up to that moment. But, if we deviate from those decisions, then this photo never happens, which means us, the people who saw the original photo can’t go forward because our futures don’t exist anymore [glancing over at Mr Bezzerides hat on the stand].”

As a result, the trio of friends use the device to receive photos from themselves 24 hours into the future before passing on the same message to their past selves 24 hours in the past to keep the timeline from being altered. In other words, Callie promotes the idea that they cannot change the future and if they don’t perform the actions seen in the photo then they will either end up incinerated like Mr Bezzerides, or simply cease to exist on their own timeline.

However, we later discover Callie believes no such thing and had been using the 8am photo shoot to pass messages to herself in order to manipulate events and salvage her relationship with Finn. She’d also switched around some of the 8pm photos shown to Finn and Casper, and at the end of the movie after the Jasper/Finn fight, sends a photo message to herself with the instruction to now swap the affair photo with one showing the charades night (SWAP PHOTO TO CHARADE NIGHT). As a result, while the evening 8pm timeline appears to follow a predetermined and inevitable pattern, the morning 8am timeline appears flexible, full of  possibilities and subject to manipulation by Callie, the real manipulator of events in the movie.

Can Callie Actually Change The Past?

Throughout the movie Callie had been using the device to receive and send photos to herself at 8am so as to manipulate the timeline and fix her relationship with Finn. Examples include messages such as KISS JASPER TOO LONG, GO WITH FINN TO CAR, DON’T FORGIVE FINN, etc.

Near the end of the movie Finn catches Callie at the window at 8am sending a message to herself saying SWAP PHOTO TO CHARADE NIGHT, KILL JASPER TO SAVE FINN, resulting in Finn feeling betrayed and wanting to destroy the machine and end his relationship with her. However, Callie continues to believe she can change her present by changing the past, and after killing Finn to stop him walking out on her subsequently tries to change the 8pm ‘police marked crime scene’ photo by sticking a note on the window saying DON’T GET CAUGHT IN THE WINDOW. In other words, she tries to prevent Finn from finding out about her 8am photo shoot as she believes this will prevent the argument which resulted in Finn trying to walk out on her. Callie’s assumption is that by causing the past to change, the present will adjust accordingly, and presumably the day she had just experienced would turn out differently.

Revised or Predetermined Timeline?

On the face of it, Callie’s belief she can change the past seems to be a misconception because as far as we witness none of the events in Time Lapse were ever altered from those shown in the photos, and if her plan of sticking the note on the window had worked it clearly would have resulted in the photo showing Mr Bezzerides’ apparent death being changed to one slightly different from the one seen by his colleague, Dr. Heidecker. Nevertheless, Callie seems convinced that changing events is possible, for instance when she swapped the ‘police tape’ photo for the one of Jasper and her having sex, or when she tells Finn “It’s gonna be OK. We won’t remember any of this tomorrow”.

On the one hand, Callie’s belief that she can alter her own timeline doesn’t seem to be borne out by anything that is shown in the movie and it is just as likely that had she succeeded in changing events she would probably have created an alternate timeline where she was not caught at the window, and Finn and her did escape together. In her own timeline, however, Finn would still be dead and there would still be an extremely messy crime scene for the police to investigate.

At the same time its equally possible the version of events we see in Time Lapse are only the ones showing Callie’s successful changes and, unlike many other time travel movies, Callie’s repeats and alterations that she successfully managed to make are not shown. In other words, we are not shown Callie’s alterations which cause a ripple effect and reset the preset. As to whether events were predetermined in Time Lapse, or if the photos could be changed, director Bradley D. King in a revealing interview with Taylor Holmes said:

“In spite of Heidecker’s explanation, Jasper obviously believes there is no way to alter the photos. Finn seems to have come around to the possibility that things can be altered, but only out of desperation, and it seems to me that when he packs that suitcase he’s still not 100% sure what might happen. And then of course Callie obviously is convinced that things can be changed, which probably came out of her experience of doing things behind the scenes and feeling a sense of empowerment from that. But who’s right? I think the question is definitely more interesting than any answer I could give. In my own imagination I have definitely explored both ways, and both are interesting.”

Timeline of Events:

1: Callie discovers Mr Bezzerides dead inside his apartment and an unusual camera which takes photos 24 hours into the future at 8pm everyday.

2: After Jasper suggests that the trio (Callie, Finn, Jasper) use the camera to win money gambling, the first photo produced shows the next day’s racing results, as well as a new painting by Finn. Wary of the fate which befell Mr Bezzerides, they then assume they must now enact all the events depicted in the photo or else risk annihilation.

3: The trio hide Mr Bezzerides’s death from complex security guard, Big Joe.

4: One week later they receive a photograph of Callie kissing Jasper.

5: Jasper’s gangster bookie Ivan discovers the camera and forces the trio to pose for photos showing him which races and runners to gamble upon. After seeing a photo of a skull and crossbones painted onto one of Finn’s works, Jasper interprets this as a warning and while the trio are being threatened by Ivan, subsequently manages to kill him and his henchman Marcus before dumping their bodies off in Mr Bezzerides’s storage unit.

6: Dr. Heidecker shows up after receiving a photograph of her colleague, Mr Bezzerides, and his hat placed on a sofa near the bloodstained window of the trio’s apartment. The photo depicts the events scheduled for the following day, but Jasper deals with the situation by killing Dr. Heidecker.

7: Finn discovers a photograph showing Callie and Jasper having sex which he assumes will take place the following night, and then tries to argue and stop the event from happening.

8: Jasper attacks and locks Finn inside Mr Bezzerides’s storage unit, after which Finn manages to escape and threatens to destroy the camera. Jasper almost kills Finn but Callie rescues him by bashing Jasper’s head in.

9: Finn catches Callie sending an 8am photo to herself with the messages SWAP PHOTO TO CHARADE NIGHT, and KILL JASPER TO SAVE FINN. Callie then comes clean and admits that she had been using the hitherto secret 8am photo shot to shape events and rescue her relationship with Finn.

10: Finn determines to destroy the camera, but Callie subsequently shots him resulting in the blood splatter seen in the original photo Mr Bezzerides sent to Dr. Heidecker (taken some time between 8am and 8pm but not at those specific times). Having already taken an 8am photo, Callie then tries to change the 8pm photo which should show a police taped crime scene, with one of her holding a sign stating DON’T GET CAUGHT IN THE WINDOW.

11: Big Joe shows up and discovers the murdered bodies of Jasper and Finn and so arrests Callie. While she is lead away her message falls off the window indicating the camera will not record the note, events will not be altered, and she will go to jail for multiple murders. The movie ends with the initial scene depicted in the photo sent to Dr. Heidecker unchanged.

Peter Christoforou :

View Comments (69)

  • The concept of this film was awesome but I felt like the execution was poor. The character's motives and actions made very little sense on several occasions. For example, the three protagonists are pretty good friends at the start of the film, it's completely unbelievable that Jasper would decide to murder them and there's no obvious motive. They could've placed bets at a bookies like Ladbrokes or something rather than dealing with some sketchy gangster, which would've made someone noticing/caring about their winning streak far less likely too. Also, killing Dr. Heidecker made no sense, and they kept trying to perfectly recreate the scenes after she made it clear that they didn't need to. The sex photo having Finn in the background makes no sense either, why would Callie cheat on him with Jasper while Finn was asleep in the same room? How was Callie so willing to shoot her boyfriend to death and unfazed by watching him die, even if she believed it could be changed that's psychopathic. Why didn't she shoot the cop? What was the point of the unrevealed photo at the end, it's shot like some big dramatic reveal but all it tells us is that the camera kept working, which it had no reason not to. Overall the film left me extremely dissatisfied. Having questions after a time travel movie is normal, but when basically all of those questions are "what was x's motive for y" there's a problem.

  • So Callie knocks over the coat stand when that 8pm photo is taken. Did she in that timeline basically do that accidentally as she pulled off her coat? Because her past self did it on purpose, following the message she got, which she sends the next morning and is received 12 hours before the stand should be knocked over By her past self? So did it just make it seem like it happened naturally in the present like the movie showed because of the ripple effect?

    Also if the last note successfully remained on the window, the dr would've seen that note in the bloody window pic that he took 2 weeks prior, right? Then he would prob still go down to the storage unit and die but when his colleague showed it, Finn and Japser would wonder what the "Don't get caught at window" note was all about? Then when they did Jaspers "money shot", Callie would still swap it with the sex photo and she'd successfully remind her past self to not get caught but Finn and Jasper would've seen the note in the pic that Dr sent to his colleague, too... But I guess if the note remained on the window, she successfully would've changed the past?

    • the modeling book scene was the scene before jasper put weapons around the house, it showed him standing outside their door like a creeper at the end of it

  • I understand that all time travel movies will have a ton of questions but this movie it a bit silly.

    The idea is amazing. The actual execution of the plot is really poor.

    If present Callie wants to warn past Callie about not getting caught at the window-what happens to present Callie when the security guard takes her away? Does present Callie think that future (her present timeline) won't exist/will stop existing so it doesn't matter?

    Also, why doesn't she just shoot the security guard? If none it "matters anyway"?

    How does Jasper get his FIRST winning bet results? I get how he got the rest of them but how does he get the FIRST one?

    As well as that, how does Finn get inspiration for his own FIRST painting?

    When Callie and Jasper are having sex in the photo why is Finn asleep? Is he knocked out? Drugged? Or just asleep? Wouldn't Finn have remembered waking up there?

    Also at the end, Callie could just tell the police about the machine.

    • "How does Jasper get his FIRST winning bet results? I get how he got the rest of them but how does he get the FIRST one?"
      He gets them all the same way... what is different about the first time? They are picture from 24h in the future, all of them.

  • Ok I am confused. Let's just take the end part where Callie says "At the end, none of this will matter." She herself is not going back in time correct? So there must be 2 alternate timelines going on. While she is protecting her past self, her present self would still be arrested and go to jail so all her effort would really be for nothing since her present self would suffer the full consequnces. Correct?

    • The idea would be that she is doing all this to help another version of herself from an alternate time line. She still gets screwed but that other version of herself in the past is better off.... one could compare it in the real world with how people have the instinct to sacrifice themselves for their children for example. They know they will die but their kids will go on... that's the only way I can make any sense of it.

  • Can someone recommend more such time travel (+mind f***)movies? I've already seen Predestination, Triangle, Donnie Darko, Back to the future series..

  • I think the past can be changed. Let's imagine the following series of events:

    1) Jasper kills Finn just before 8am Wed.
    2) Callie sends a message to her past self at 8am Wed to save Finn by killing Jasper.
    3) Past is changed. Now Callie receives the message at 8am Tuesday. But at this point she has no knowledge of exactly what happened on Wed. She can only guess.
    4) Callie heeds the message and kills Jasper to save Finn just before 8am Wed.
    5) Callie sends a message to herself at 8am Wed to save Finn by killing Jasper because if she doesn't, the timeline switches back to the original one where Finn dies. She believes that the photo is an instruction from her future self and now she has to make sure the instruction is sent to her past self.

    Whenever a message is posted, the PAST is changed. Meaning when the photo is received, it is already PAST version 2. When the photo was taken (message posted), it is FUTURE version 1. Meaning FUTURE version 1 takes place chronologically (if you view the events from outside both timelines) before PAST version 2. It makes no sense that a photo is developed in the absence of agency. Someone has to take the picture in the first place.

    The exact same photos have to be taken TWICE in order to finalize an event (no more changes can be made). This cements the past. Otherwise, the past can be infinitely reset/changed.

    Now let's imagine that the past cannot be changed.

    Future version 1 (where no photo and hence no message is received):

    1) Callie joins Finn at the car.
    2) Callie sends a message to past Callie to do the thing she has already done without any instruction from her future self.

    How does that make any sense?

    I feel that this makes more sense (and avoids the usual time travel paradox):

    Future version 1 (where no photo and hence no message is received):

    1) Callie doesn't join Finn at the car.
    2) Callie regrets her decision and sends a message to past Callie to join Finn at the car.

    Past resets. Past version 2:

    3) Callie receives message.
    4) Callie joins Finn at the car.
    5) Callie sends a message to past Callie to join Finn at the car to finalize the event.

  • How did Jasper not remember the photo of him and Callie being of an event in the past? I loved the movie(watched last night) but have a lot of these types of questions.

  • I still don't understand how u could possibly change the present by changing the past. It's not like everything would just *poof* change. Callie should have known if she was successful in her note she never would have killed jasper or her boyfriend in the first place because it would have been in the picture she recieved the previous morning. I think it would, as the article explains, be possible for her to alter events in another timeline. Some other version of herself, living one day behind (if u believe in multiple universe theory and multiple timelines) would conceivably get her message and changed accordingly, but her boyfriend still would be dead in this timeline.

  • Also, I don't believe the premise is possible from even a philosophical perspective (obviously it's not literally possible to have a camera that sees into the future) unless it is IMPOSSIBLE for each picture not to be created. This suggests that it was predetermined that they would look at the pictures and act accordingly. For all the months the camera had functioned w/o their knowledge, events transpired causing each image to come true. The whole movie, they needn't have been worried about "fucking with time" because it doesn't seem feesible that it would even be possible to make it so that the picture doesn't come true. This brings up larger issues of free will because obviously they could have flown to china after seeing the first picture and that picture wouldn't have come true, but if u believe in determinism (which is the only real way this movie makes any sense), it was already determined that they wouldn't do that