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  Flashback You Must Remember This
Year: 2020
Director: Christopher MacBride
Stars: Dylan O'Brien, Maika Monroe, Amanda Brugel, Hannah Gross, Keir Gilchrist, Emory Cohen, Sima Fisher, Aaron Poole, Josh Cruddas, Liisa Repo-Martell, Ian Matthews, Maika Harper, Lanndon Norris, Herschell Blatt, Donald Burda, Jackie English
Genre: Science Fiction, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Fredrick Fitzell (Dylan O'Brien) has been having some troubling dreams lately, apparently in reaction to something that occurred when he was a teenager in school. But are they dreams or are they memories, and why are they starting to intrude into his waking life? He is happily married to Karen (Hannah Gross), he has a promising job in an office, and sure, he would have liked to pursue something more artistic, but he doesn't think he has any major regrets. However, his mother (Liisa Repo-Martell) is in the last stages of dementia, and this is triggering some bad flashbacks...

In himself, rather than his mother, though she may be having them too. Flashback, originally called The Education of Fredrick Fitzell before a more commercial title change, was the second film from Canadian director Christopher MacBride, one of those talents who would bode well to become an auteur or at least a cult figure if only he could catch a break. This arrived almost a decade after his first film, an indication of how difficult it is to get anything produced in the twenty-first century movie landscape if there is even so much as a hint that the results might be out of the ordinary, or hard to market.

Certainly MacBride was not doing himself any favours by crafting a purposefully obscure narrative that most would find confounding, thanks to the way it shifted back and forth through time, sometimes between split seconds, putting the flash in flashback. Precisely what was happening to our seriously confused protagonist was a mystery that even a second or third viewing may not solve, though the clues were there. The trouble was, were we supposed to trust the clues, or rather which clues were we supposed to trust? There was an explanation three quarters of the way through that indicated this was science fiction.

Science fiction as a genre did appear to be the jumping off point for the film's conundrums, sort of a cross between Kurt Vonnegut and Philip K. Dick, yet throwing in such influences as cult items Donnie Darko or Jacob's Ladder - if that challenge sounded like your cup of tea, you would get more out of this than the casual viewer would be prepared to tackle. Indeed, the casual viewer would have likely headed for the hills within about ten minutes of the discombobulation the director threw at both his audience and his characters, but from what we could discern, Fred was experiencing his life up until around the age of thirty in a cut-up fashion of half-recollections that were building towards a major revelation.

His focus here is Cindy Williams (not the sitcom star), played by Maika Monroe as part saviour girlfriend on a pedestal, part druggy casualty of her youthful dalliances with a strange, time-shifting narcotic called Mercury that she may have never survived. Is Fred's visions of her (and a small crowd of others) trying to pull him out of what seems to be his ordered life with Karen an indication that he is in a false reality? Or did his experiences with Mercury send him into a disordered mental state? That this was able to wrap itself up after a fashion around ninety minutes in was testament to MacBride's faith in his material, though even then not everyone was going to be onboard. What was impressive was O'Brien, centring the drama and demonstrating a talent that was not apparent from his Maze Runner outings, convincingly cracking up as his brain begins to betray him - or something else does. In fact, everyone gave a very good performance, suggesting that was all even the most bizarre plotlines needed to sustain our interest. Electro music by Anthony Scott Burns and Pilotpriest.

[Vertigo Releasing presents Flashback on digital platforms 4 June 2021.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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