“A half-hour genre bending, animated series that explores the elastic nature of reality,” states the description on Prime Video. And does it live up to the claim? Absolutely.
Created by Kate Purdy and Raphael Bob-Waksberg, starring Rosa Salazart as Alma – the protagonist who, after an accident, starts to experience her mysterious ability to flow through time – the series follows the journey of Alma as she uncovers the events leading to her father’s death. It does manage to blend animation, drama, fantasy and mystery into one.
Alma is living a robotic life that is a repetition of commute to the day-care where she works following the same morning routine at home, work, self-conscious conversations with her mother (Constance Marie) and sister (Angelique Cabral), comfortable banters with her boyfriend (Siddharth Dhananjay), and sleep following some uncomfortable disagreements that begin and are abandoned. But we meet her as she rushes her car down the street, weeping and ignoring the lights & signs until she sees a glimmer of something on the side of the road appearing from nowhere, which is enough to cause her to lose control and wreck the car.
Later it is revealed that that glimmer was her late father (Bob Odenkirk), who she sees next to her bed in the hospital. The scene that follows in the hospital enacting the time loop that she gets stuck in, is probably one the best in the show. Her father has come to her for help in finding out the reason behind his death, which he claims was no accident as it is accepted to be by everyone, as she possesses the same ability that her grandmother did – a unique connection with the universe through time. He claims he cannot do it by himself although he seems to possess some ability allowing him to manipulate time, as we see him pulling Alma back into the other world time and again, the reason being that he has blocked the memory from his mind for some reason.
The story unfolds as we see Alma getting better at using her strange ability, managing her daily life and relationships, while trying to find out what happened to her father by going through records, meeting people, and travelling back and forth in time. We also see Alma’s experience of time through other people’s perspective on rare occasions. Added to this is the struggle of the people in her life in trying to help her, while navigating through some of their own struggles in life. Although the focus still remains on Alma, it is good to see the attention given to the supporting characters in the story as well. However, we do not see the same level of character development over time here, as we do with Alma.
As Alma finally uncovers the truth, we are occasionally presented with the question of whether her abilities are real or her behaviour is a symptom of schizophrenia, especially towards the end of the season. Her grandmother was diagnosed with schizophrenia and later her mother, in her concerned and overly caring (to the point of smothering at times) manner, also shares with her the unstable state of mind of her father. I believe this aspect of the story could have been exploited some more. There are also some unanswered questions that, rather than adding to the thrill and mystery, show themselves as distractions. For example, how can Alma experience others’ perspectives? Is her ability more than just transcending time?
All of this is presented in an excellent mixture of live action, oil painting and animation, combined with brilliant narration. The animation employs rotoscoping, the technique of painting or tracing animation over live action footage, integrating the simplicity of a picture book with the tiny facial expressions that make live performances so rich. The imagination, details, performance and technology that went into the series make it impressive.