by HELEN GEIB
Premonition has a complicated and intriguing story structure. It takes place over one week, with the twist that the heroine, Linda (played by Sandra Bullock) lives the days of the week out of order. She is the only one conscious of this phenomenon, which creates the premonition of the title. She struggles first to comprehend what is happening and then to change the “future” she has already lived.
If this was a science fiction film, akin to a movie like Frequency for example, then it would be about whether she succeeds in changing the future. While Premonition invites analysis as science fiction because the plot is structured around Linda’s temporal disorientation, it is actually a different kind of movie.
Premonition is fundamentally concerned not with the events themselves, but with Linda’s mental and emotional state as she struggles to comprehend and react to what happens to her. The underlying theme of the film is that things happen to us in our lives that we cannot control. What we can control is our reactions, and our reactions determine the quality and direction of our lives. Premonition is about whether Linda will understand that truth in time to change the direction of her (emotional) life.
Premonition succeeds as a gripping emotional drama primarily because of Sandra Bullock’s commanding and nuanced performance. She is the focus of very nearly every scene, and must move through an almost dizzying array of emotional reactions. Simply put, Bullock owns this movie. No one who misses this movie should call herself one of Bullock’s fans, and it will be a rewarding experience for anyone who enjoys performance-driven drama.
This is very much a one-woman show. None of the other characters stand out, though the supporting performances are uniformly good. In many films, it would detract from the story that the audience really never learns much about any of the other characters. Here, however, it is both a consequence of the way the story is constructed and one of its strengths that attention is given over so completely to this one woman.
In watching Premonition, the genre I was most strongly reminded of was the “women’s pictures” of the ‘thirties, Hollywood studio films that provided star vehicles for top women stars (usually opposite B list actors in the husband or lover role). The genre often foregrounded family relationships and domestic life, and validated the idea that an ordinary woman’s emotional life is meaningful and important.