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The Butterfly Effect (2004)
The concept is fascinating, but the character scenarios depicted in this film are two-dimensional and contrived to the point of cliché, which majorly detracts from a story which is otherwise quite interesting.
Having the ability to alter the events of your past to reshape the future is the core concept at the heart of this film, and it is a very fascinating one indeed, particularly as it explores the unintended and dangerous consequences of doing so. Evan (Ashton Kutcher) experiences unexplained memory black outs as a child and teenager. The meaning of these blackouts becomes clear as an adult when he realises that he can travel back in time to the point of those blackouts with the aid of the journals he used to keep of his every day life. Evan and his friends have had traumatic childhoods, and when he sees the opportunity to change things about his childhood during a trip to one of the blackouts, he takes full advantage of it. Very quickly however, he sees a dramatic down side to those changes with nothing really turning out in a way that is positive for every one. He eventually reaches a solution, but it means giving up his love for his childhood sweetheart Kayleigh (Amy Smart). As a science-fiction piece the film works quite well, and has enough going for it in this respect to make it worth watching. This is probably Kutcher’s best film and he amicably steps up to the mark. The most effective performance given here is by Amy Smart who has to play various different versions of her character Kayleigh as Evan make changes to his past that affect the future. “The Butterfly Effect” is not too bad as an exercise in science-fiction story telling.
The unfortunate part about this film is that in an attempt to make the stakes for Evan’s character as high as possible by giving him and his family/friends traumatic lives that he would want to change, the filmmakers end up creating some of the most contrived and clichéd character scenarios you are likely to see. Kayleigh’s aggressive brother Tommy is perhaps too aggressive, or at the very least, there is nothing shown here that demonstrates his borderline psychosis in any depth or with any meaning. Kayleigh’s father George (Eric Stoltz) seems to back off too quickly when Evan confronts him multiple times during the film, particularly as the most crucial scenes are done when he is a child. You would expect given George’s sick activities that he would be far more aggressive rather than immediately curtailing himself to a child. Even parts of Kayleigh’s story do not quite gel, even though Amy Smart is effective in her performance of playing different aspects to her character. The film is hampered severely by these contrivances; you can imagine that it would probably have been a great film if more attention was paid to the logic and depth of the characters and their motivations. The irony of course is that the ending is sad for Evan, which is very un-Hollywood like!
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