Interview: Director Richie Mehta talks I’ll Follow You Down, time travel, and family business
Canadian director Richie Mehta is a self-identified builder of worlds.
In advance of the release of his new film I’ll Follow You Down, I spoke with Mehta, (who is not related to Deepa Mehta, though his brother is short story writer Shaun Mehta, from whose story he adapted his first film, Amal), by phone.
His answer as to whether his recent film was a departure from his first two films, Siddarth and Amal, both set in the Indian subcontinent, absolutely floored me.
Mehta said that no matter what the setting may be, or where the movie takes place, the filmmaker’s job is to be a creator of worlds, and this is no different for a film about a rickshaw driver in the Indian subcontinent, or a drama about a seemingly family torn apart by a work / home divide.
I’ll Follow You Down is a must-see film, as it takes the big idea of time travel, and kind of hides it, creating a family conflict, with veteran actors Rufus Sewell and Gillian Anderson playing parents Gabe and Marika, of a young boy, Erol, played in flashbacks by John Paul Ruttan. Mehta assured me that not making time travel the focus of the film was entirely intentional, and, indeed, at its heart, I’ll Follow You Down reads as the story of a professor who one day disappears taking a business trip, and his family being left to go on without him.
In the future, Erol grows up to be played by an actor that many filmgoers have not seen in quite some time, that being Haley Joel Osment. Quite surprisingly, Osment is perfect for the role of Erol, and the movie descends into an attempt for Erol to search for his father, but at the same time almost becoming his father, tearing apart a stable relationship with the love of his life, Grace, played by Susanna Fournier.
Asking Mehta why he chose Osment for the role, Mehta discussed interviewing him in New York City, and explaining that he just seem to fit the character perfectly, and that as an added bonus, in walked legendary Canadian actor Victor Garber, who ended up being cast as Erol’s grandfather Sal. The interactions between Sal and Erol comprise much of the core of I’ll Follow You Down, and Garber is a welcome Canadian presence in a film that showcases the beauty of Toronto, specifically the University of Toronto, (here playing the role of Princeton).
Mehta reveals that Osment is the “smartest guy that I know”, in a number of different subjects. At its heart, I’ll Follow You Down is Osment’s film, and I asked Mehta if it was intentional that he cast actors known for their science fiction credits. Mehta thoughtfully responded that “I like Sewell just as much in Dangerous Beauty as in Dark City”, and that Anderson is “about as far removed from the sci-fi element as can be”, playing the disturbed wife, and is definitely not Dana Scully in the film.
Mehta ultimately reveals that this film, though containing science-fiction elements, is a film about a family conflict, and was quick to note that theories about the multifaceted nature of the title I’ll Follow You Down is valid. He notes that “There are ultimately two, three families that are affected by this one decision”, and it is a film about making proper choices, and then living with the consequences of those choices.
Clearly, I’ll Follow Mehta down to whatever worlds he chooses to create.