Laura (Clara Rugaard) is a talented artist with a love for music. Her best friend, Chloe (Lyrica Okano), introduces Laura to her stepbrother, Harrison (Lewis Pullman), who works at a local record store. It’s love at first sight, and sparks ignite as the two share many common interests. Harrison even begins to teach Laura how to surf, and most importantly, he begins to make her a mix tape of songs they share at various moments within their relationship. While life for the two is perfect, it’s not long until a tragic accident occurs.
One morning Harrison goes surfing and is instantly killed in a car accident. Sad, lost, hurt and struggling to move on with her life, Laura is filled with various emotions despite time moving on. Laura tries to find new love, but nothing compares to the connection she once had with Harrison. While attending a wedding, Laura speaks with the old record store owner, Cooper (Danny Glover), who gives Laura the original mix tape Harrison once made with her. She soon pulls out her old tape player to relive some treasured memories and songs, but when Laura presses play, she finds herself transported back in time to when Harrison was still alive! Laura has been given a second chance to try and save her true love. The question is, can she prevent Harrison from dying?
Press Play is best described as a teenage drama filled with what I deem as mushy romance. Following a similar tradition to films such as The Butterfly Effect (obviously not as heavy), the film focuses on a leading character trying to do everything she can to go back in time and save her true love. It’s a concept that’s not overly new to cinephiles, but the film introduces some retro elements, such as vinyl and cassette tapes, delivering fun vibes on-screen.
Leading characters are questionable, especially the lead, Laura. While smitten as a kitten to begin with, it’s not long until Laura comes across as more of a fast-talking and somewhat selfish character. Going back in time not only affects Harrison but others around her. But for some reason, she never seems overly fussed about the consequences to others close to her, just the outcome for Harrison. Laura’s lines of dialogue seem a little awkward during certain moments and perhaps unfitting. Emotional moments between the leads are certainly pleasing, but Laura isn’t an overly likeable character for the most part. On the other hand, Harrison delivers more likability as a character, and Lewis Pullman’s performance is a little more engaging and entertaining on-screen.
Visually, I did find this film pleasing. There are many bright colours and stunning locations, such as nice-looking beaches, which are great backdrops. While the visuals are great, I was highly distracted multiple times thanks to a boom microphone entering the frame not once but four times! I was shocked to see this was included in the final cut, especially as some of these boom mic moments happen during the film’s most touching and dramatic moments, making this feature feel extremely unpolished and rushed.
Overall, if you’re seeking a mushy teen romance with some pleasing retro aspects, pop music and time travel, this might be a wonderful film to experience. Visually, this film is fairly pleasing with backdrops such as stunning beaches. However, the film is far from perfect, with a leading character with many unlikeable moments and a plot that creates more questions than realistic values and answers. While visuals are strong, the film feels rushed and unpolished thanks to a surprising boom microphone during four key scenes, distracting and baffling me. Press Play (2022) is Now Available in Australian Cinemas.