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Can’t Go Home Again [Anthony J. Cook, UK, 2021]

Can’t Go Home Again is a science fiction short that deals with themes of childhood trauma, tragedies of the past, and personal redemption with a chockfull of time travel elements. The world of Can’t Go Home Again is set in a distant future where Temporal Enforcement Agents can travel through time and prevent crimes from occurring. However, the story’s protagonist, Agent Elliot Young, is breaching code and traveling illegally, a rogue on a quest for redemption, setting out to revisit areas of the past that are strictly prohibited by the agency. Agent Elliot must eliminate the root of a dark tragedy that has haunted her for years.

Conceptually, the film follows classic genre tropes, borrowing heavily from a bunch of sci-fi properties such as Doctor Who [UK, 2005─] and last year’s cinema spectacle, Tenet [Christopher Nolan, UK/USA, 2020]. The premise is strong and promising as Agent Elliot is spat out from an unconvincing CGI cloud into a dark, dank, and de-saturated industrial city. The opening shots are fluid, but as the film progresses, the camera work becomes a tad shaky and repetitive. The one action scene lacks the tension and excitement, which tighter editing and more polished sound effects could have enhanced exponentially.

Victoria Smith, who plays Elliot, is somber, steely, and determined but lacks the pathos and dramatic chops to make the audience completely invest in her personal tragedy. The twist at the beginning is a bit predictable and could have been approached more creatively.

Can’t Go Home Again takes your favourite sci-fi staples and blends them into a slick premise with the potential to wow audiences, but ultimately doesn’t have enough to blow you out of the water.


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