The Butterfly Effect


Directed by: Eric Bress, J. Mackye Gruber
Written by:Eric Bress, J. Mackye Gruber
Starring: Ashton Kutcher, Melora Walters, Amy Smart, William Lee Scott, John Patrick Amedori
Released: March 11, 2004
Grade: B+

Watching The Butterfly Effect is like putting together a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle with few pieces missing.  It’s great fun as you’re going along but there’s a sense of confusion and disappointment waiting for you at the very end.  Then again, any film about the intricacies of time travel is bound to mystify.

The film centres around Evan Treborn who is played by Ashton Kutcher.  I’ll say straight out that Kutcher doesn’t belong here.  I feel unusually sympathetic making this statement because other critics have already given him a pasting.  The rumour is that he cancelled many press interviews after the initial negative reactions and has been very depressed by the whole experience.  It’s not that Kutcher is a poor actor but rather he is a poor choice for this role.  The Butterfly Effect is a deeply serious film and the producers have taken an ill-timed gamble by choosing a lead actor who specialises in comedy.

Evan Treborn suffered from “blackouts” as a child.  He would actively do things but when quizzed later, would have no memory of them.  Neurosurgeons could find no problems but the symptoms were eerily similar to that of Evan’s father, who wound up in a mental institution.  At the age of 13, a series of events (which I won’t detail for fear of spoilage) forced Evan and his mother to leave town forever and start a new life in a new place. 

Now, Evan is a studious 20-year-old quietly celebrating the fact he hasn’t had a “blackout” in over seven years.  He takes a girl back to his dorm but she uncovers a box of journals written by Evan under his bed.  He briefly reads of them and a life long forgotten comes flooding back… literally.  He is taken back in time to the moment he is reading about.  Only he is not there as a passive observer – he can change the events as they unfold.  But as he changes the past, he unknowingly changes the future and the life he will return to will not be what he expects.

There’s plenty of food for thought and I’ve had a good think and read a few internet articles on whether all the events that unfold in this film make sense.  I’m sure if it were possible, the creators of The Butterfly Effect might themselves sneak back in time to change a few elements of the screenplay.  I’m not 100% convinced but I give credit to any filmmaker who still has me thinking after I leave the cinema.  Subsequent to writing this review I’m sure to be asking others for their thoughts.

The star of the show is 16-year-old John Patrick Amedori who plays a younger version of Evan.  When the older Evan travels back into the younger Evan’s body, Amedori perfectly captures the Kutcher persona and delivers his dialogue without the slightest hesitation.  I’d be betting on more good roles and a promising future for this latest teen star.

The “butterfly effect” theory prescribes that “if the initial state of the nonlinear system is changed only slightly, one cannot predict the difference in how each system will evolve over time.”  I guess that also means that no two people who see this film will have the same opinion.  Damn.  Defeats the purpose of writing a review, doesn’t it?