Vertigo Releasing presents Flashback on digital platforms 4 June 2021
Our life is full of choices and decisions, the very fabric of our existence based on random moments where we decide to turn right, left, forward or back. These choices define who we are, our opportunities and the life we enjoy. On many occasions, I have found myself wondering ‘what if’, and I know I am not alone. In fact, these feelings only escalate with each year that goes by. For example, what if I had gone with my first choice of University rather than my second, and what if I had started writing film reviews when I was younger, rather than waiting until my mid-forties. Of course, the truth is, we will never know the answer to these questions that mount in our minds, our very notion of life, love and belonging tied to the irreversible decisions we take.
Despite these decisions, our need to reinvent ourselves and forge a new path continues throughout our life. For some, these junctions occur when they leave college, and for others, they come during mid-life. But, whatever age you may be when these feelings strike, the emotions attached are urgent, necessary and sometimes, life-changing. However, these thoughts can also take us down a rabbit hole as we meditate on our choices with destructive effect. Over the year’s many films have attempted to explore these junctions. Some of these movies have opted to use comedy and drama. While at the same time, others have taken us into mind-bending worlds of science fiction and fantasy. In Flashback, Christopher MacBride opts to merge several genres. His movie an engaging, complex and sophisticated melting pot of addiction drama, science fiction and thriller.
Fifteen years after leaving school, Fred (Dylan O’Brien) appears to have it all; a successful career, a stylish apartment and a loving partner. However, when his mother is rushed into hospital, having suffered a significant aneurysm, Fred’s life is pulled into sharp focus through a series of strange and uncomfortable flashbacks. These random thoughts transport Fred back to his school life, where a girl haunts his visions. However, as Fred becomes fixated on finding her, his secure life begins to unravel. His present slowly merging with the past as he remembers the drug-fuelled events that led to her disappearance. But are these flashbacks rooted in his past? Or is his present a mere mirage of what could have been?
Of course, I am not about to answer these questions, as the final messages held within Flashback will differ for every viewer. After all, this movie has no intention of offering simplistic plot devices or easily defined conclusions. As a result, it is possible Flashback will prove too much of a cinematic rabbit hole for some, but for those who love their onscreen journey wrapped in intrigue, mystery and heart-pounding tension, Flashback will not disappoint. In fact, it’s more than possible that, like me, you will find yourself going back for a second viewing not long after the first.
So, what makes Flashback stand out from the crowd? The answer is two-fold, but let’s start with Dylan O’Brien. I have long stated that O’Brien is one of the most undervalued young stars in Hollywood. His ability to hold a scene and an audience clearly demonstrated in both his early work on Maze Runner and more recent roles in Love and Monsters and Apple TV’s Amazing Stories. Like its story, Flashback feels like a transition for O’Brien, a stepping stone from teen based drama to a far more adult realm. His performance embedded in a myriad of complex emotions as Fred’s life is unpicked strand by strand. Here, O’Brien’s performance is the glue that holds Flashback together and the hook that carries the audience through MacBride’s web of intrigue.
However, when O’Brien’s performance is coupled with MacBride’s vision and Brendan Steacy’s cinematography, Flashback truly comes alive. Here, MacBride is unafraid to challenge his audience, the final thirty minutes of his film a barrage of visual and auditory stimuli that echoes the artistic intensity of Kubrick. While at the same time, Steacy bathes Fred’s world in distinct colour palettes, from the neons of his awakened memories to the autumnal glow of his relationship and stark white of his career. As to how audiences will relate, that will depend on the individual. But, one thing is for sure, Flashback thoroughly deserves your attention in a crowded online marketplace of delayed releases.