Right at the end of the credits it says that Around the Sun is inspired by Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds, the 1686 book written by French author, philosopher and scientist Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle. Mind you this is not news having just watched the film because it talks explicitly about the ideas and construction of this book all the way through, and the parallels with what is going on with the central couple are obvious.
This makes it all sound a little ostentatious, or at least heavily scholastic but what is quite wonderful about the film is that it is neither of these things. It is actually quite sweet and delightfully engaging. Being previously unfamiliar with Fontenelle’s work I really enjoyed this film and I suspect that if I was better educated in the intellectual and metaphysical experts of 17th Century Europe then I’d have loved it. Taken on the surface, the film plays out the flirtatious first meeting of a young couple in the grounds of a run down Stately Home in Normandy but it manages to bring in bigger cultural and educational themes without taking away any of the charm.
I say it plays out the first meeting of a young couple but actually it plays out the first meeting and then it plays out the first meeting again with similar circumstances but a varying conversion. Initially it feels like some kind of Sliding Doors alternate reality thing and you become curious as to what cosmic occurrence is going on behind the seemingly inconsequential events but as Fontenelle’s ideas of plurality are introduced it becomes something altogether simpler but no less satisfying. In fact it seems to say some nice things about our own roles in imagining and conjuring up a multiverse and our connection to our own lives never quite lived.
As mainstream American movies in the form of the Marvel Cinematic Universe really ramps up to explore these notions, building on the seeds planted by Endgame and Spider-Man: Far From Home, this is a delightful amuse-bouche and one where the flavours may prove more subtle.
The conversation that passes between the central couple also comes across as quite stilted at first. This could be the unconscious stumbling of flirtation but at points it sounds like she is almost delivering a Ted Talk. As things progress though the reasoning behind this is reframed too as the film looks at the artificially of reported conversion. Essentially Around the Sun seems to be quite smart, looks like it is getting tripped up in its conceit only to move confidently toward the finishing line like Aesop’s tortoise, making you realise you were the hare, dashing ahead and doubting it.
Around the Sun is a succinct little treat (only seventy eight minutes), hiding on iTunes as of this weekend and I suggest you search it out. The Special Thanks in the end scroll lists a huge amount of names which, judging by the surnames, include some family members of the creative team. I suspect these people are funders and I think we should all honour and reward their faith and investment. There are already too many big films with small ideas so small films with big ideas should have our attention.