Photo: ‘Flashback’/Lionsgate Films
‘Flashback’: Connecting Present, Future, And Past
Director-writer Christopher MacBride’s second feature film, ‘Flashback’ follows Fred (Dylan O’Brien) in his 30s with a seemingly normal-bland life that is until he begins experiencing disorientating flashbacks to a time in which he has blatantly forgotten. In the start, these flashbacks show images of unknown people, more specifically the face of Cindy (Maika Monroe) but Fred’s knowledge of why or what is uncertain. Details uncovered within these trips to the past include the disappearance of Cindy, experimentation with a drug called Mercury, and a recurring visit from a man with a scarred face who speaks in broken words.
Related article: The Rise And Journey of Dylan O’Brien: A Superstar In the Making
Fred’s mother, Mrs. Fitzell (Liisa Repo-Martell), is sick in the hospital and has no memory of Fred, and has become an empty vessel of whom she used to be. And yet, Fred visits her as much as he can, that is until certain things occur, making the ending become what it is but, I will leave that information concealed. These flashbacks begin causing disruption in his life, and with his girlfriend, Karen (Hannah Gross), who finds it confusing and irritating that her boyfriend is drawing images of a girl she knows is not her. There is also a disturbance with his ability to work, causing his boss, Evelyn (Amanda Brugel), to become highly uncertain of keeping him moving forward. Thus, these flashbacks are “literally and metaphorically” uncovering an uncertain truth of an experience Fred once had but what is revealed comes to change his life as we know it.
The original title was ‘The Education of Fredrick Fitzell,’ which, after having watched the film, this title would have been entirely misleading. So instead, the title ‘Flashback’ is a perfect way to put the storyline since from the very beginning, and within every few minutes, Fred experiences flashbacks. I mean, the storyline itself is an ode to connections between present, future, and past, in a similar way to different ways you might see in the film ‘Interstellar.’
If there is anything you must know considering or before watching ‘Flashback,’ you must understand that this film can only be appreciated by completing it. The entire beginning can come across as melodramatic with hints of profound thinking that do not have complete thoughts, and it can be entirely disorienting that is until you complete the film.
Slow-burn That Must Be Endured To Be Enjoyed
The beginning is entirely confusing, just as Fred is undergoing confusion with trying to match up pieces of his past he has no recollection of. After completing the film, the slow-burn choices and disorienting context make sense and become forgivable, but I fear that other people will not have the patience to wait that long to understand. The editing is just as disorienting as Fred’s mess of a mind tries to overcome its holes of memory loss. With jarring cuts that exit scenes abruptly with no completion and moments of silence that pull you away when Fred comes back to reality from his mind, it’s almost nauseating at points. There are more than enough hints inferring that something is going on, but there isn’t enough detail to connect the dots until you’ve reached the end.
In Fred’s flashbacks, we see Cindy, whom we infer is hovering above Fred as she says, “It’s alright. Stay with me, Fred.” But, again, there is no inference as to why she seems distressed until the last quarter of the film that explains everything. You might argue, isn’t that what films are about by giving hints to an ultimate ending? And yes, indeed, but I fear that the sheer amount of confusion with the lack of any sort of release for the majority of the film might deter the general public from receiving this film positively.
As an artist, Fred draws the small glimpses he sees within his mind; however, I found that his knack for drawing did not match his character’s personality build-up. While the technique of drawing fits with the storyline and editing as it allows the audience to revisit his abrupt flashbacks, something within Fred did not portray, “I’m an artist,” but instead, he comes across as a mathematical type.
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When Fred goes to a strip club to escape his reality of distress, he comes into touch with an old friend after thirteen years, Sebastian (Emory Cohen) from High School. The casual reflection of their lives and how they “lost touch” after all those years happen before Fred reveals that he’s been remembering things and asks, “You didn’t keep in touch with Cindy at all after graduation?” Sebastian does not remember and has almost no memory of Cindy before changing the subject to drugs as he says, “The first time you tried merc, you remember that?” Fred replies by saying, “Yeah, how could I forget.”
Entering a flashback to Fred in High School, we learn that he had begun experimenting with the Mercury drug alongside Cindy, Sebastian, and Andre (Keir Gilchrist). Fred’s first drug experience comes across as slight peer pressure from Sebastian’s forceful presence, as you would expect in High School. However, it’s still challenging to watch someone get pressured into doing something they are hesitant about.
Cindy rebuttals this idea as she says, “Hey, don’t let anything influence you. Make a choice yourself.” Even with her comment, I cannot help but consider that under the circumstances in a scary room with judgment surrounding you, the chances of you leaving the situation on your own whim are slim. On Mercury, Fred begins hallucinating in psychedelic images while Cindy falls into a profound melodramatic speech. “I’m not your tour guide. I don’t take it to be like them. I take it to explore. – Anywhere but here,” she says.
Back to the present day, Fred and Sebastian get in touch with Andre, but none of them know about Cindy’s whereabouts from thirteen years ago. “I can’t shake the feeling that something bad happened to her, and we all forgot,” Fred says. With a few more disorienting context images that leave the audience unknowing of practically everything, Cindy pops in and out of Fred’s mind with profound thoughts. “It’s like you only exist when I’m on this drug,” Fred says to Cindy. The film’s deep thoughts and way of thinking come off as a girl trying to be different, and while I adore the context of everything that is being said, how it comes across is not the way I’m sure it was intended to be.
Fred: “What are you looking for? Why is it so important for you to explore?”
Cindy: “I don’t want to be like them. Locked in a prison, they don’t even know they are in. – We have to remember the power we have. The power of choice – The power of now.”
As I’ve said, these words do not have the impact they are intended to make until you complete the film and give it time to rest within your head. After a few hours, considering and going over everything that just happened, you truly begin to think, “Wow, that was a pretty darn good film.” There are also some troubling pieces of scenes and outside characters that, in a way, add a horror aspect. In a small way, Monroe’s direct-acting is similar to her portrayal in ‘It Follows’ in which she also worked alongside Keir Gilchrist, who plays Andre. Although that style of acting only matches with that sort of cold and eerie directing, her reminiscence with the static character does not hold as powerful.
When Sebastian says, “I remember,” the night of the last moment they were with Cindy quickly is revealed to the three boys. It was right before final exams, and they had gone to a building to get the top-of-the-line Mercury, but after they took the drug, their memories have been blurred. But, the drug was not like they had done before; instead, it had the effects of something far greater.
Andre: “Don’t take it. It’s not what we think it is.”
Fred: “I already took it. What’s going to happen to me?”
The last quarter of the film is where the magic happens, and it’s disappointing that it takes that long to get into it. Unfortunately, for most audiences, they won’t have the patience to wait, and it’s a failed opportunity for both O’Brien and Monroe. Fans of the pair have been watching the film, as they would with anything their favorite actor or actress puts out but, I selfishly want more for these talented potentials.
Tik-Toks Of Fan’s Excitement To Watch ‘Flashback!’
@kamrynlovesdylanobrieni can’t even begin to describe how proud i am of him. he worked so hard on this movie. i love you more than anything dyl. #dylanobrien #flashback♬ as the world caves in slowed – himura
@moviekiddd.826 so excitedddd #dylanobrien #dylantiktok #flashback #fypシ #foryou #flashbackdylanobrien #dylan ♬ freaks by surf curse – mars :))
The ending in itself was beautifully bittersweet, but the film as a whole is not the strongest as the twist is too big for a film that hadn’t had the chance to build up to something as monumental and existentially profound. While I cannot directly say what occurred, it was undoubtedly the best part of the entire film and has left me pondering the storyline for hours. It’s a good film but is it a film you’d print out the poster and put on your wall? I don’t think so unless you’re a big Dylan O’Brien fan.
Director and writer Christopher MacBride certainly has potential, but with this being his second feature film, matching his two talents did not click perfectly. Had his script been directed by someone whose directing choices are more appointed to details rather than acting, the tone might’ve come across as he intended to be. And without spoiling anything, I will leave you with these two lines to infer what might happen; however, I will say that ‘Flashback’ is a film worth watching, but to understand it, you must see it through.
Fred: “I’m still here.”
Cindy: “You’ll always be here.”
From his start in the teenage wolf-drama TV show ‘Teen Wolf,’ Dylan O’Brien has molded himself into the pure potential of working alongside A-list actors. However, what is standing in his way of doing just that? O’Brien’s past persona is a huge fan base of young adult content alongside his “baby face” personality. Even as an adult, O’Brien looks exceptionally young for his age, and the inner cute, playful, and joyous guy we know from his YouTube channel debut with the webcam cover of “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls is still within him. He made his first break away from the teenage wolf appearance in ‘The Maze Runner’ series but did not obtain the same outcome as Jennifer Lawrence received after ‘The Hunger Games’ as she now works in award-winning films and herself has become an A-list actress. Still, I cannot help but wonder why O’Brien is trapped even considering that it might be because of his young adult fan base.
Other films of O’Brien’s include ‘Deepwater Horizon’ and ‘American Assassin,’ both films marketed towards a mature audience but the production quality within the storyline does not support his acting capabilities. So, without his doing, O’Brien is once again unrecognized for his efforts. In 2020, O’Brien and Sarah Ramos re-created the famous ‘Social Network’ scene when Eduardo (Andrew Garfield) confronts Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) for being a terrible friend. While made in a home with no production or fancy effects, this reenactment perfectly shows the sheer amount of potential O’Brien possesses but has not been taken advantage of.
With the perfect impersonation of Garfield’s tone of voice and the execution of frustration and emotion, it’s almost sad to know that a director with real promise has not picked up O’Brien yet. As a fan of his myself, and knowledge of the large fan base he has as most of the world classifies him as the “white boy” every girl dreams of, it’s a failed opportunity that he is not being used to his full potential. If there is a straightforward way to put how I feel about Dylan O’Brien, he is a comforting actor to watch because he never once strikes your attention away from the film but instead balances what you should be paying attention to. His solid acting never attracts negatively, so you’re left just feeling comfortable in the strangest way as that might sound.
Maika Monroe, most known for her role in the eerie ‘It Follows,’ one of which has become a top horror film for enthusiasts with its out-of-body experience in both the static acting and abnormal storyline, does a semi-supportive job in her role as Cindy. Cindy comes across as melodramatic in character design with her smokey shadow look, not-washed appearance, and attitude that screams, “I don’t care because I’m better than you.”
However, I sometimes get Monroe mixed with another actress, Imogen Poots, but I love them both equally and have a terrible problem mixing up actors and actresses. I mean, you cannot tell me that young Mark Wahlberg and Matt Damon were not the same person. But, I digress, Monroe portrays Cindy as she should, but it was not her fault that the character, storyline, and editing made the character come across as melodramatic up until the ending. But, again, as I said, you have to complete the film to know that the slow-burn beginning that is disorienting, confusing, and melodramatic has a quite beautiful ending.
O’Brien and Monroe are able to work off of each other; however, this chemistry would have been better if the directing style either slowed its pace to match the melodramatic undertones or sped up with the time-loop psychedelic thriller tone. The film is trying to be two entirely different entities, and the actors are trying to support both as they are good at their job, but their efforts are diminished.
Where To Watch ‘Flashback’
Flashback releases on June 4, 2021, available to stream on Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, Google Play, and Microsoft Store. Rated R for drug content, language throughout, brief sexual material, and nudity.
Where To Find The Stars
Expected June 10, 2021, Dylan O’Brien can be seen in Antoine Fuqua’s ‘Infinite’ alongside Mark Wahlberg, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and more. As said on IMDb about ‘Infinite,’ “A man discovers that his hallucinations are actually visions from past lives.”
In the post-production process, Maika Monroe can be seen in Chloe Okuno’s ‘Watcher’ alongside Burn Gorman, Karl Glusman, and more. As said on IMDb about ‘Watcher,’ “A young woman moves into a new apartment with her fiancé only to be tormented by the feeling that she is being stalked by an unseen watcher in an adjacent building.”
Amanda Brugel can be seen every Wednesday with new episodes of season 4 of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ streaming on Hulu. Check out this article on Hollywood Insider for everything we know about season 4 of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale.’
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Isabella Brownlee is an experienced writer, video editor and filmmaker. She is currently a writer for Hollywood Insider, focusing on detailed and thought-provoking film reviews and articles discussing truth and impact in the film industry. Driven by self-awareness and unique perspectives, she takes utmost pride in providing others with emotionally impacted knowledge about the film industry. As a writer, her main goal is to connect with the audience and those who find themselves in the back of the bleachers unknown to anyone but beautifully aware of the world. In addition to her primary job functions, Isabella creates and edits videos/films personally and professionally. Aligning with Hollywood Insider’s mission of sharing impactful and influential content, Isabella hopes to enrich her readers with positivity and truth.