The Butterfly Effect
In today's world where the film going audience is both savvy and smart it is rare, if often, to find a film that is unique. The inevitable influences of previous dealings with the subject matter mean that there is some form of awareness regarding what it is your going to see. Previous dealings with Chaos Theory, the underpinning thread of The Butterfly Effect, have been sparse. Most memorable to mind is the explanation by Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park using a drop of water down his hand. The idea being that the water droplet could have taken any number of paths based solely on a light movement of his hand, a gust of wind, or the vibrations caused by a T-Rex.
The title 'The Butterfly Effect' relates to the idea proposed by scientist Edward Lorenz that if the theory, known technically as 'sensitive dependence on initial conditions', were correct then one flap of a seagull's wings would be enough to change the weather system forever. Overtime this metaphor changed to the far more poetic; 'the beating of a butterfly's wings in Tokyo might set off a tornado in Texas months later'.
But what about the film? Is it any good? In a word yes. In two, hell yes. Despite the seemingly staid science/introduction above, the film is one of those rare films that makes even the most hardened film cynic (my brother in this case) go 'ooooo' a lot of times. The film is nothing like what you expect from the bubblegum pairing of Aston Kutcher (That 70's Show) and Amy Smart (Road Trip). Instead it is dark, edgy and tackles many subjects that Hollywood is scared to death of confronting.
The plot begins by showing the evolution of Kutcher's character Evan Treborn, in stages, from a young age to the present where he is studying psychology at university. Evan lives with his mother because his father is locked up in a lunatic asylum. During his early years, Evan experiences periodical blackouts at times of trauma, being unable to remember anything that happened. A local doctor suggests that the best method to aid in curing this is to keep a journal, to see when the memory loss occurs and thus possibly figure out why. The film centres around Evan and his three friends, Lenny and the siblings Tommy and Kayleigh.
In the present Evan has left his friends behind, when his mother moves away from the area, and hasn't suffered a blackout in seven years - since he moved away with his mother. Until that is, it occurs while he is at university, triggering a series of events that are a compellingly mad ride, encompassing so many terrible and wonderful events.
The lead actors Kutcher and Smart are superb. Nothing they have done previously suggests the depth and variety of talent both display in a sharp, powerful tour-de-force of a script that is an incredible white knuckle ride. As a tale, the narrative produces a convincing balancing act between science, human emotions, ingenuity and shock. Very much in the same category as Memento, you'll want to see it again just to clarify everything that happens. Most important though is the ending, unlike some other intelligent movies there is no cop-out, the story is faithful to the very end and will leave you reeling.
It is necessary to say that The Butterfly Effect won't suit everyone's taste, the topics covered are controversial and the film walks a fine line between avid interest and melancholic morbidity but for those who want something unique, engaging and absorbing that stretches you on a number of levels you could do a lot, lot worse than The Butterfly Effect.
Reviewed by Owen Jones © 2005