“Did you get spun around?” Maggie (Cara Theobold) asks Bernard (Gethin Anthony), just after he arrives at a chateau owned by her family in France at the start of “Around the Sun.” She worries she’s given him the wrong entrance for the palatial estate, with both Brits on foreign soil, but he’s disoriented for other reasons, having learned just before that he’s about to be a father and clearly not happy about it. He puts on a brave face for Maggie, with his visit prompted by scouting a location for a film shoot, but as she gives a guided tour with details about its history as feudal castle in the 16th century that became most well-known for serving as where the scientist Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle wrote his landmark book “Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds,” on the property, very little registers with Bernard, whose mood has shut him off to the world.
Once Bernard seems immovable, director Oliver Krimpas and screenwriter Jonathan Kiefer spin the audience around instead, taking inspiration from Fontenelle’s notions of parallel universes by revisiting Maggie and Bernard if their introduction had gone even slightly differently to embark on something original. While the narrative device may remind of “Sliding Doors” where one choice could lead to an entirely different set of circumstances, the filmmaker’s gently interrogate what occurs when there’s even the slightest shifts in emotional currents rather than overt actions as either Maggie or Bernard become capable of saying something that’ll hit the other just right, taking their conversation or even their entire perception in an entirely new direction. No subject is off-limits during the tour, leading to ruminations on the cosmos – even if Maggie’s family hadn’t bought the manse, the science geek would be strongly interested in Fontenelle, and Facebook etiquette, and as Bernard begins to take pictures of Maggie rather than the location he’s supposed to be scouting, it’s obvious the professional pretense gives way to a personal connection, though not necessarily in all the ways you might think.
There is considerable irony in Bernard going on about the potential of a film shoot as Maggie describes an illustrious history of the house that has required quite a few repairs in recent years, both talking about something that exists more in the mind than in reality and with the ability of the film to get at the truth in the middle, “Around the Sun” intrigues with how you see the two may be deceiving each other to some degree, but more often than not how they are deceiving themselves. Theobold and Anthony are a lovely pair to spend time with and despite the single location, you feel the whole world they inhabit from their energy, the constant stream of revelations in Kiefer’s script and the persistent yet never overwhelming style inherent to the conceit that refreshes angles aesthetically as the story takes on new dimensions. Make no mistake, “Around the Sun” is a small, unassuming film, but one that contains multitudes and by the end, you suspect if Maggie and Bernard can forge a bond, you’ve been let in on one of the bigger secrets of the universe.