Dylan O’Brien goes on a mind-boggling reality trip in Psychedelic Flashback. What I can best describe as a twisted combination of The butterfly effect, Limitless, and Synchronous. The film is an almost constant barrage of fast cuts, bizarre images and slow motion effects. The core of the mystery comes into focus when the antagonist goes through a crisis of consciousness. Flashback is exciting to watch, but becomes a victim of its own confused plot in the final act.
Flashback begins with Fred Fitzell (Dylan O’brien -> actor) and longtime friend Karen (Hannah Gross) receive terrible news. His beloved mother (Liisa Repo-Martell) has suffered a catastrophic brain injury. Fred struggles with her tragic diagnosis. His life has taken a comfortable path. He and Karen have moved into a new apartment. He started a well-paying job as an information analyst at a company.
A strange encounter in a traffic jam evokes a repressed memory of high school. He’s obsessed with Cindy Williams (Maika Monroe), a former classmate who has apparently disappeared. When Fred locates his old friends (Emory Cohen, Keir Gilchrist), they too have no memory of Cindy after a fateful night. Fred gets disturbing visions. His life begins to crumble as he digs deeper for Cindy. He soon realizes that his teenage experimentation with a potent drug has led to an alarming possibility.
Writer / Director Christopher MacBride (The Conspiracy) unloads a barrage of sensations as he builds his complex narrative. As Fred remembers past events, they blend into his current reality. There are scenes in which the dialogue cuts into a new period after each word. It’s a fluid process, but strange because the characters almost instantly switch back and forth on what they looked like at that particular point. It’s a fascinating approach that pulls you further into the plot. Flashback gets too crazy when MacBride starts adding strobe effects. Anyone with photosensitive epilepsy should stay away from this film.
The depiction of drug addiction is not in the foreground, but it is well implemented. Christopher MacBride’s portrayal of persistent drug use, its culture and its aftermath is spot on. The irony is that he doesn’t make an anti-drug or pro-drug statement. The drug they use is never rated in the script. But the director shows exactly where the drugs lead. It’s kind of a bonus warning to its time-traveling, trippy narrative.
Flashback loses steam about two thirds of the way. The visual tricks are blasé once the secret is revealed. The ending makes sense, but honestly I had lost interest in the existential gibberish by then. Dylan O’Brien is amazing as always. His film selection is unique, thoughtful and entertaining. Everything he’s done as a headline actor since then The maze runner Trilogy did not disappoint. Flashback was previously titled The education of Fredrick Fitzell. The film is a Resolute Films and Addictive Pictures production. It is currently available for streaming on-demand and digitally with a Blu-ray / DVD release on June 8th from Lionsgate.
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