February 5, 2004

The Butterfly Effect

Print More

Opening with a line from Chaos Theory, The Butterfly Effect states that even the smallest flutter of a butterfly’s wing can cause a hurricane to form halfway across the world. By meshing this with the of notion of time travel, you get the basic foundation of the movie. Although the logic of The Butterfly Effect is quite shaky and the plot twists are a little bit too extreme, the film delivers some solid acting from its young stars.

Ashton Kutcher plays Evan, a college student who has discovered a most unusual portal into his severely troubled past. With his newfound power, Evan tries to create a better future for himself and his loved ones by altering critical moments in the past. Unfortunately, each change he makes produces unexpected and regrettable consequences.

Despite its science fiction premise, The Butterfly Effect strives to be a psychological thriller. Each of the main characters — Evan and his friends Kayleigh, Tommy and Lenny (played as adults by Amy Smart, William Lee Scott, and Elden Henson) — has a past that would make any psychoanalyst cringe with delight. As a child, Evan suffered through an insane father, a pedophilic episode with a friend’s father and violent interactions with a sadistic friend.

Evan remembers none of these troubling periods, however, because he always manages to black out during them. Years later, his repressed past continues to haunt him, forcing him to literally revisit those moments in order to come to terms with his life. It is painful to watch, as Evan relives the same horrifying episodes of his childhood over and over again; but even worse is how he refuses to accept that changing the past does not translate to a better future.

Kutcher’s fans will be pleased to see the actor exploring the darker and more serious side of acting. He does a decent job as a troubled young man who is trying to come to terms with his unusual talent. Occasionally, Kutcher’s presence manages to put an unexpected comical spin on a somber moment.

For the supporting actors, this movie provides an excellent opportunity to explore a variety of different roles since their characters all undergo severe personality changes. Only Smart, however, takes advantage of this situation, giving a quality performance that overshadows those of her costars. As Kutcher’s love interest, Smart’s character oscillates flawlessly from an impoverished waitress to an uppity sorority girl to a drugged-up prostitute.

While the movie poses some interesting psychological questions the way Evan deals with his disturbing past, it ultimately relies on fantasy, not science, to pull the story together. The movie focuses primarily on Kutcher’s character, but he unfortunately cannot carry the film to its full potential.

There are some clever scenes and admirable acting that render the movie worth watching. The Butterfly Effect may be a very improbable and depressing film, but it provides a solid two hours of entertainment that is not quite time wasted.

Archived article by Yiwei Wang