Today I recommend The Butterfly Effect, a 2004 movie about memory, which, paradoxically, seems almost forgotten by the public.
The story revolves around young Evan, who, from an early age, has gaps in his memory. His mother worries about the same serious problem as his father, locked up in an asylum, so she takes him to a doctor who advises keeping a daily diary of everything he does.
Once he turns twenty, Evan is an excellent student leading a happy life of friends and beautiful girls. Yet, something dark and unseeable weighs on his soul.
So he decides to retrieve the old diaries, beginning to read the pages of those distant days he hasn’t thought about in a long time.
At that moment, Evan remembers so well what happened right then as if he had traveled back in time, becoming a child again and reliving firsthand those events.
He thus recalls the terrible episode that happened to him and his best friend, Kayleigh, whose father had forced them to make a sleazy pornographic film.
When he talks to the girl about it, she is so shocked by that recall she had not thought about in years that she even goes so far as to commit suicide that same evening.
Shocked by her death, Evan goes back again to read the diary, making an extraordinary discovery: not only can he relive events perfectly, but he can also change them, altering the future.
Very soon, however, he also discovers how he always ends up unleashing something equally terrible and unpredictable while helping his friends by improving some aspects of their lives.
Desperate to undo his mistakes, Evan soon realizes the only way to truly help his loved ones is the one choice he would never want to make.
Time-Tampering Chaos Chronicles
The Butterfly Effect is not simply the title of this movie released in 2004. Still, it refers to the homonymous phenomenon, a mathematical concept exploring how slight variations in a dynamic system’s initial conditions can lead to significant differences over time.
Surprisingly, the opening quote comes not from a poet or philosopher but meteorologist Edward Lorenz, who introduced the idea of the butterfly effect in chaos theory.
Although the movie is less well known today, it was a massive success at its release, grossing nearly $100 million worldwide.
Not bad for a modest 13 million budget production, yet made with respectable scenic and photographic care.
However, there is no denying that, at times, the editing feels too fast and potentially confusing for viewers.
Especially in the beginning, let’s say in the first 20 minutes of this story, many of you might actually wonder what the hell is going on.
Nevertheless, the filmmakers’ artistry successfully holds together a wide range of situations and characters, exploring different variations of events as the protagonist progresses in his attempts to change the past.
Instead of emphasizing the main character’s redemption, turning him into a winner who takes advantage of the situation, the story highlights the theme of acceptance.
In painful and traumatic childhood reminiscences of pedophilia, abuse, and bullying, young Evan learns the importance of accepting the consequences of his actions and learning from his mistakes.
Even more painful will be, finally, accepting that the best choice sometimes is to step aside when you feel the irresistible urge to step in.
Don’t underestimate teenagers
Although the young age of the cast may affect the perception of The Butterfly Effect, it is essential not to simply classify it as a 2004 movie aimed exclusively at teenagers.
Indeed we have the remarkable performances of up-and-coming actors who, while perhaps not later achieving international star status, show great dedication to their craft, delivering convincing and passionate performances.
Let us begin with leading actor Ashton Kutcher as Evan, the character with arguably the significant time screen presence.
Of course, it is pointless to make silly comparisons with the splendid Michael J. Fox from Back to the Future, considering the degree of difference between these actors and their respective movies.
However, Kutcher brings his character to life and conveys the confusion and disorientation typical of a teenager, pushed to extremes by constant time travel.
Even better is Amy Smart as the hapless Kayleigh, demonstrating her versatile nature as an actress.
Although today we are used to seeing her as a nice girl for comedies, she faces a more complex challenge, playing different versions of the same character.
Her portrayal ranges from the waitress Kayleigh to the drug addict and prostitute to a more sober and distinguished figure who wanders through the crowd wearing an elegant white dress in the terrific ending.
It is perhaps easiest the work of William Lee Scott as her brother Tommy, a character deeply scarred by past traumas who decides to embark on a path of violence and bullying as a reaction to the suffering his father inflicted on him during his childhood.
Finally, we have Elden Henson as the likable Lenny, virtually the exact opposite of Tommy, coming out of loneliness to become Evan’s best reliable friend.