Actress/screenwriter Britt Marling is well on her way to becoming the It Girl of head-scratching hipster sci-fi.
Following last years cult curiosity Another Earth, shes back as star and co-writer of this exploration of time travel, groupthink and narrative discontinuity. Marling plays Maggie, a self-proclaimed time traveler who presides over a group of acolytes meeting in a nondescript beige California ranch house. Breathing from an oxygen tank, she explains that she has traveled back from 2054 to prevent a catastrophe. White-robed followers, sitting cross-legged in a circle, nod harmoniously. Let go of you, become the group, she intones with smug smiling-guru serenity.
New recruits Peter (Christopher Denham) and his girlfriend Lorna (Nicole Vicius) surreptitiously film the meetings to expose the group before those people kill themselves. Maggies claims about the future leave room for doubt, but if shes telling the truth, the undercover couples disclosure could thwart her mission.
The script, co-written by director Zal Batmanglij, aims to create suspense (and cover gaping plot holes) through portentous blunt cutaways to parallel story lines. One concerns a hypersensitive 8-year-old girl at the school where Peter teaches, another follows a mystery woman claiming to be a government agent.
Marling lacks the commanding magnetism that made John Hawkes a credible cult leader in last years similarly themed Martha Marcy May Marlene. Both films end without closure.