The Death and Life of Otto Bloom is the kind of film that will have you scratching your head and narrowing your eyes at the screen, trying to find flaws in its logic. But really, the film is best enjoyed without this level of scrutiny applied. After all, when the titular character is a man who travels backwards through time, it’s best to suspend your disbelief.
Otto Bloom, played by Xavier Samuel, is found wandering in the middle of the night and apparently suffering from amnesia. He’s taken to hospital, unable to remember anything but his name, and is placed under the care of psychologist Dr. Ada (Rachel Ward and Matilda Brown), who discovers his unique perception of time, and eventually they begin to fall in love. The problem is, because Otto travels backward through time, he only remembers the future and not the past. Confused? Yep, me too. Think of it like an Australian Benjamin Button – except Otto’s time travelling abilities are mental, not physical.
The film is structured as a fictional documentary, the story being told through interviews with those who knew Otto best, and re-enactment style scenes and artifacts. It is Rachel Ward as the older Ada who carries the emotional weight of the story, and it is with her we sympathise most. Xavier Samuel’s performance is also excellent, as the charming and enigmatic Otto.
The film urges the viewer to be in the moment and enjoy the present, especially as the main couple have no choice but to do so, but at times this is done very heavy handedly, particularly towards the end.
Otto Bloom is a very original concept, and executed in a creative and interesting way. Despite this, it can’t really seem to decide where it’s influences lie, switching between a style reminiscent of La Jetée (1962), and at other times trying very hard to be a Stephen Hawking documentary. Maybe when you’re throwing your disbelief out the window, toss your expectations out there as well, as Otto Bloom is not going to give you a conventional fluffy narrative film. It’s always a joy to see a good Australian film, and there is definitely some local talent on display here.