Flashback (2021)

Christopher MacBride

Running Time: 97 Minutes

Certification: 15

Starring: Dylan O'Brien, Hannah Gross, Emory Cohen, Keir Gilchrist, Maika Monroe, Liisa Repo-Martell, Amanda Brugel, Alan C. Peterson

After his feature debut with The Conspiracy, an interesting faux-documentary thriller regarding conspiracy theories, writer-director Christopher MacBride returns after nine years. His sophomore film approaches a more fantastical concept through a more relatable story, as Fred Fitzell (Dylan O’Brien) feels unsatisfied with life. Fifteen years since leaving school, his artistic dreams feel suppressed by a corporate job, while struggling to commit to his long-time girlfriend and coping with his mother dying.

Longing for his youthful years, Fred finds his life changed after a chance encounter leaves him experiencing horrific visions. He tries piecing together his fractured memories relating to an experimental drug called Mercury, and a long-hidden mystery regarding Cindy (Maika Monroe), a classmate who went missing.

The first-half takes a slow-burn approach, as our lead finds himself wrapped up in the past while trying to escape his present. As he reconnects with past friends and queries about a lost night, horrific flashes of previous events are teased, and one gets the sense it's building towards something tragic. As the mystery gets pieced together, the second-half sees MacBride uniting ideas otherworldly and unique to be conveyed through visually interesting ways, aided by an excellent score from Pilotpriest. As the past, present, and future blend together in a stylised manner, it brings to mind Arrival amidst a plot with shades of The Butterfly Effect and Synchronic.

Known best for his work in Teen Wolf and The Maze Runner, Dylan O'Brien shakes the teen-friendly image his career had cultivated with an exemplary performance. The characterisation may feel at a distance until later on, yet the portrayal captures Fred's turmoil exceptionally. A shame this criticism isn't limited to him, especially when the female characters feel like plot devices and wives foremost.

Above all else, this is a film which requires one's full intention otherwise important moments may be lost on viewers. Despite some instances which feel heavy-handed, key revelations are subtly delivered in ways sure to reward on repeat viewings. What MacBride has delivered is something wonderfully original and inventive in the way independent cinema excels at.

Flashback is available on Digital Platforms from June 4th