THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT
However, such could not be further from the truth. The Butterfly Effect is far from being a shallow romantic drama. One expected it to be no more than a glib alternate timelines romance, a shallower variant on the spate of alternate life pathway films that came out around 1998-2000 Run Lola Run (1998), Sliding Doors (1998), Twice Upon a Yesterday (1998), Me Myself I (1999), The Family Man (2000) and Possible Loves (2001). In fact, The Butterfly Effect makes a much more substantial use of alternate timeline themes than all of these others do. Furthermore, defying the talentless pretty boy he was dismissed as being, Ashton Kutcher was canny enough to see the potential in the script, which languished unproduced for several years, and pushed to get it produced (taking an executive producer role). Moreover, he gives a reasonable performance too it is nothing particularly standout, yet on the other hand he doesnt embarrass himself or sink the film either. (The standout performance comes from Amy Smart, who is required throughout the length of the film to move all the way from prom queen to working class waitress and a crack whore).
The Butterfly Effect is very well written. It easily leaves behind the romantic fluff of Sliding Doors et al and instead places the emphasis on the shifting subtleties of each change in the timeline. Sliding Doors et al concerned themselves with little more than the protagonist finding a timeline that held the apotheosis of romantic/domestic fulfilment. The Butterfly Effect, while keeping the romantic element in the background, is a much more mature variation and concerns itself with darker emotions. In fact, it offers up a portrait of a dark and troubled childhood that is far removed from anything that Hollywood films usually touch on. The films emphasis is not on finding the man/woman of the central characters dreams but rather on how each subtle attempt to set something right ends up having drastic unexpected results. In fact, rather than Sliding Doors etc, the film The Butterfly Effect perhaps comes closest to might be a more serious version of Bedazzled (1967), a film where the protagonists perpetual attempts to choose a wish that allowed him to get with the girl of his dreams always ended up having disastrously unforeseen consequences. Pointedly, the culmination of The Butterfly Effect is not the hero getting together with the girl from his dreams but seeing that this is the centre of his problem timelines and turning away and denying it. It is a mature and intelligent piece of writing. The hows and whys of Ashton Kutchers time travel and the memory blackouts are not explained much, but this is not too big a problem.
There have been two sequels The Butterfly Effect 2 (2006) and The Butterfly Effect: Revelations (2009).
(Nominee for Best Original Screenplay at this sites Best of 2004 Awards).