Ashley (Storm Reid) and Uncle Jack (David Oyelowo) have a close relationship. Her father, his brother, was once a screw-up. And though his life has mostly been on the straight-and-narrow ever since, Dad still isn’t a reliable phone call away. Jack is, so whether it’s a ride home or just a few minutes to catch up, Ashley doesn’t hesitate to pick up the phone.

And a call from Ashley is almost always a welcome phone call. Except right now. Jack’s a little busy investigating a grisly murder. Her murder.

Set in a Los Angeles that feels more like a ghost town than a bustling metropolis, Don’t Let Go from writer/director Jacob Estes is the latest movie from Blumhouse Productions, a production company known for lower-budget genre movies with a bit more meat on their bones, story-wise. Don’t Let Go continues the formula, mixing a murder-mystery with some time traveling and a touch of YA fiction.

The conceit: Ashley has been murdered. And while LAPD investigator Jack is investigating her murder, she phones from his past, her present. At first, Jack keeps this information from her — he’s not entirely sure if he’s crazy or not — but once it becomes clear he can prevent her murder in her timeline, they start working together to solve the mystery.

How this time-traveling phenomenon happens is never spelled out or even called into question. Instead, Estes uses a simple camera effect and a bit of fancy editing to imply the idea of a fractured timeline. How and why are not the point, and Estes keeps the movie moving with a swiftness that calls to mind film noir. If the audience is allowed to think about it, it won’t add up. So, don’t give them too much time to think about it. Keep it moving and keep it interesting.

It also helps to have Oyelowo and Reid anchoring the movie. Oyelowo plays Jack constantly on the verge of cracking up or passing out, and it gives the movie its pulse. Reid — good when called upon for emotion, better in movement — grounds the movie and gives an absurd premise weight.

Written and directed by Jacob Estes
Story by Jacob Estes and Drew Daywalt
Produced by Jason Blum, David Oyelowo
Starring: David Oyelowo, Storm Reid, Mykelti Williamson, Alfred Molina
OTL Releasing, Rated R, Running time 103 minutes, Opens August 30, 2019

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