Needle in a Timestack parents guide

Needle in a Timestack Parent Guide

This is the rarest of films - an original romantic drama.

Overall B+

Digital on Demand: When Janine's ex warps time to destroy her marriage, her husband has to figure out how to save their happiness.

Release date October 15, 2021

Violence B+
Sexual Content B+
Profanity D
Substance Use B-

Why is Needle in a Timestack rated R? The MPAA rated Needle in a Timestack R for some language

Run Time: 111 minutes

Parent Movie Review

“Love is drawn in the form of a circle. No one knows where it begins and it never really ends. You and I, we are we are just…forever. Always…and all ways.”

This confident assertion of the power of love is soon to be tested. In a world where people can travel through time, it’s possible to erase the beginnings of a relationship. Is it also possible to find a beloved spouse and restore what was lost?

Janine (Cynthia Erivo) and Nick (Leslie Odom Jr.) are happily married, living in a near future where the wealthy can time travel on a whim. Janine’s ex-husband, Tommy (Orlando Bloom), is rich and Nick is convinced that he’s going back through time to sabotage their marriage. When the worst happens, Nick scrambles to hold onto his memories, and then his instincts, and rebuild his life.

Needle in a Timestack is that rarest of films – an original romantic drama. It eschews syrupy montages and soft-focused sex scenes for authentic emotion. Janine and Nick’s devotion to one another suffuses every scene, even when they’re on the outs with one another. It’s easy to care about the couple and root for them to be together.

This film is more than just 111 minutes in search of a happily-ever-after ending. It’s a meditation on relationships, destiny, and chance. It asks viewers what they believe about love, fate, individual agency, and life choices. As Tommy bitterly tells his erstwhile friend, “One relationship negates all other possibilities. Love is its own kind of crime and every time we fall in love we’re just stealing a person from someone else and all the possibilities that come with them.” This movie might or might not have you wondering about how your life would differ if you had followed another path, but it will definitely have you holding those you love a little bit closer.

It’s not only love that is deftly handled here, but also time travel. The characters inhabit a familiar yet strange world; one where time travel is simply “one of the little annoyances of modern life”. People talk about going on “time jaunts” and routinely check their phones and call loved ones after a time shift, just to make sure that nothing has changed in their personal situations. The corporate world has figured out how to profit, selling economy time travel packages and hawking memory recovery services, so people can digitally archive photos and other memories to be retrieved if a “phase” erases their memories or changes their life circumstances. The ethics of time travel are intriguing: Is it acceptable to time travel to save a loved one from accidental death? What about time traveling to set someone up in a happier relationship? Debating the morality of the choices made in this film will certainly appeal to viewers who want something to chew on besides their popcorn.

Needle in a Timestack is an intelligent, intriguing drama, with an impressive cast. Leslie Odom Jr., in particular, bears the emotional weight of the film on his shoulders, and does an impressive job of it. Jadyn Wong also deserves commendation for her role as his devoted sister, Zoe. Even negative content is unusually light for a romance, with no sex or nudity. The only real problem here – and one that is insanely annoying for a family movie critic – is the profanity. The half dozen sexual expletives push this film out of the PG rating it otherwise merits and into Restricted territory. Finding a clean, thoughtful romantic drama is the proverbial needle in a haystack, and the swearing keeps this movie out of that category. That said, it’s still a wonderfully unique film, and is well worth a watch if you can handle the cussing.

Directed by John Ridley. Starring Leslie Odom Jr., Freida Pinto, Orlando Bloom, Cynthia Erivo. Running time: 111 minutes. Theatrical release October 15, 2021. Updated

Watch the trailer for Needle in a Timestack

Needle in a Timestack
Rating & Content Info

Why is Needle in a Timestack rated R? Needle in a Timestack is rated R by the MPAA for some language

Violence:   A time shift rolls over a group of people like a wave. A woman has a nosebleed. A man threatens to go back in time and hurt someone. A woman is seen falling through the air: it’s mentioned that she died.
Sexual Content: There’s mention of a same sex partner. A woman photographs men performing a sensual dance with each other. There are scenes of men and women kissing and embracing.
Profanity:  There are a half dozen sexual expletives and roughly the same number of terms of deity and scatological curses as well as a crude anatomical term.
Alcohol / Drug Use:   Adults drink wine with dinner, at a bar, and at parties. A person mentions getting drunk in the past.

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Needle in a Timestack Parents' Guide

Nick is told not to fret about the past because “the past brings us where we need to be”. Do you agree?  What parts of your past were difficult at the time but have helped you build the life you have now? Are there experiences you regret that have nonetheless helped you grow as a person?

What do you think about the ethics of time travel? Do you think Nick’s world has enough rules for it? What rules would you impose? Would you make the choices that Nick, Tommy, and Zoe did? Do you think their choices were ethical?

Home Video

Related home video titles:

Time travel is a frequent topic in film and can be found in numerous romantic dramas. In Reminiscence, a man travels through his memories to find a missing woman whose appearance in his life changed it. The Time Traveler’s Wife follows the struggles of a couple as the husband suffers from a rare genetic disorder that causes him to randomly travel through time. When Tim turns eighteen, he learns that he has the ability to travel back through his own timeline: About Time follows his attempts to adjust his past and correct his mistakes. In The Lake House, the characters don’t time travel, but their letters do. For some reason, letters placed in the house’s mailbox travel over a two year period, bringing together a doctor and an architect who time seems to want to keep apart. The very sentimental Somewhere in Time, follows the time travel attempts of a man who has become infatuated with the photo of a beautiful woman of a bygone generation. Kate & Leopold shares the misadventures of a British duke who accidentally jumps forward a century, finding himself in 20th century New York City. There he meets a brisk ad executive who tries to help him adjust to the new century and, despite her best intentions, romance blossoms between this unlikely pair. Groundhog Dayis the classic time loop film, in which Bill Murray’s character lives the same day over and over again until he finally gets it right.

If it’s a romance that asks serious questions that you’re looking for, I’m Your Man might be a good choice. This German movie features a woman who has agreed to spend three weeks with an android programmed to be a perfect romantic partner.