“We all, at one time or another, are going to experience some kind of death that rocks us to our core … and there’s no escaping that,” writer and director Jacob Estes told TheWrap during this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
Estes’ new film, “Relive,” which premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, is a story of such loss. The film stars David Oyelowo as Los Angeles detective Jack Radcliff, who fields a distressed phone call from his niece Ashley (Storm Reid) and rushes to the rescue–only to find the girl and her parents dead in an apparent murder-suicide.
The film then takes on the air of a supernatural thriller as gets another call from Ashley after her death — from three days prior. With the cell-phone connection acting as a link between the past and the present, Jack urges Ashley to collect clues that will help him to solve her murder and change her fate.
“The movie is about this horrific loss that detective Jack Radcliff, played by David Oyelowo suffers,” Estes said during an interview at TheWrap studio at Sundance. “This movie is sort of this very dark territory where David’s character is allowed to maybe have an opportunity to talk to the dead to save her.”
The script for “Relive” originally centered on a white family living on a farm in Ohio, but the project changed after Oyelowo, drawn to the story’s emotional core, expressed interest in starring.
“For me, even though it had these genre elements, even though it had this wonderfully complex plot ultimately it was about love,” Oyelowo said at TheWrap’s Sundance studio. “It was about a love that would engender a man to reach through space and time to try and save his niece and for her to do the same for her family.”
“Relive” plays as part supernatural thriller, part time-warped police procedural. The film, produced by Jason Blum’s Blumhouse Productions, taps into genre beats to deliver the love story Oyelowo was so keen on showing.
He said that underlying emotion was what they focused on during filming. They didn’t want to lean too heavily into the pulpy genre aesthetics and lose the realistic connection between the characters.
“We talked about tone a lot when we were doing the film and the tone that we went for was something very grounded, something that feels entirely plausible and realistic,” Oyelowo said. “We didn’t want to necessarily have a thunder clap that splits time or some kind of earthquake or something of that nature that we’ve probably seen in other movies before — it was theoretical and then everything else is literal and to me, that is the special quality of the film because you forget that there is an element of the premise that is far-fetched and then you just start transposing your own life onto this situation.”