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Saturday May 18th 2024

The Butterfly Effect | 2004

The Butterfly Effect location: West Lawn Building, Riverview Hospital, Coquitlam, British Columbia
The Butterfly Effect location: Evan is taken for tests to the ‘Sunnyvale Institution’: Vancouver, British Columbia | Photograph: Niall Williams

Anybody expecting a fluffy Ashton Kutcher comedy is in for a bit of a surprise with this dark story of alternative realities, seemingly inspired by Ray Bradbury’s classic short story A Sound Of Thunder, in which the casual crushing of a single butterfly by a time traveller totally alters the course of history. Be sure you watch the Directors’ Cut with the original uncompromised ending.

Kutcher is Evan Treborn (an improvement of the script’s original clunkily symbolic Chris Treborn – geddit?), who’s grown up plagued by memory blackouts. When he begins to recover memories, he also develops the ability to revisit those key moments and choose a different path. Inevitably, it turns out that each successive attempt to second-guess fate is thwarted by further complications. As a time-travel movie, it’s chock full of plot holes, but it succeeds as a dark fable about the futility of attempting to change the past.

The superficially idyllic neighbourhood, in which young Evan (Logan Lerman) grows up with friends Kayleigh (Sarah Widdows), her brother Tommy (Cameron Bright) and chubby introvert Lenny (Jake Kaese), is Port Moody, a city in Metro Vancouver at the east end of Burrard Inlet.

Worried by the bouts of amnesia, Evan’s mom (Melora Walters) takes him to undergo a series of tests to ‘Sunnyvale Institution’ – ominously the same facility in which his “crazy” dad is incarcerated. The institute is the closed West Lawn Building of the much-used location, Riverview Hospital, 2601 Lougheed Highway, in Coquitlam. You might recognise it as the not dissimilar ‘Stonybrook Institution’ from Final Destination 2, which was written by Butterfly Effect’s directors. The disused mental hospital provided the department store interiors for Elf and was more rescently seen in Deadpool.

With the onset of adolescence, childhood friendships begin to fray, coming to a head when the 15-year-old Evan (John Patrick Amedori) goes to the cinema with Kayleigh (Irene Gorovaia) and the increasingly disturbed Tommy (Jesse James). The movie house where they see David Fincher’s Se7en was the Granville Cineplex Odeon, 855 Granville Street, downtown Vancouver. The Odeon was the last remaining of a clutch of movie palaces along Granville Street. Despite only having been built in the Eighties, the Odeon finally closed its doors in 2012.

With disturbing child abuse, animal cruelty and the consequences a prank gone horribly wrong, Evan and his mother make a fateful decision to leave the neighbourhood and start a new life.

Seven years later, these horrors seem to be long past. Evan (Kutcher) is studying at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. In Room 100 of the Geography Building on the university’s Robson Square Campus at 800 Robson Street, he confidently sits an exam, before returning in a parallel timeline as a significantly less studious jock to take it all over again.

The Odeon is gone, but you can still get a drink at the local student bar where Gothy roommate Thumper (Ethan Suplee) upsets the pool game. This is the Blarney Stone Pub, 216 Carrall Street, in Vancouver’s Gastown district.

Childhood trauma has left Kayleigh (Amy Smart) with serious self-esteem issues as Evan discovers when he tracks her down, working as waitress in the Hilltop Cafe, 23904 Fraser Highway, Aldergrove, east of Vancouver. The cafe is a screen veteran, having been seen in many movies including 2005 comedy The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, as well as in TV shows such as The X-Files and Smallville.

Evan’s attempts to improve history go increasingly awry. In one unexpected turn of events he finds himself banged up in a particularly brutal prison after having clubbed to death the aggressively unhinged Tommy (William Lee Scott). These scenes were filmed across the border in the US at the Monroe Correctional Complex, 16700 177th Avenue SE, Monroe, Washington State. And, yes, many of those scary-looking extras are real residents of the facility.

Evan manages to expunge the murder, waking up in a sunny world where Tommy (William Lee Scott) has become a born-again goody-two-shoes and Kayleigh is happily hooked up with a slimmed-down, buffed up Lenny (Elden Henson). Having secured an unlikely happy outcome for the others, it’s Evan whose life is incomplete, literally. He ruefully watches from the sidelines, minus arms or legs, from his wheelchair on Koerner Plaza on the Main Mall in front of the Walter C Koerner Library, on the uni’s Vancouver Campus, on the city’s West Side.

Evan’s rewrites of history become increasingly frantic, but the final outcome depends which version you’re watching.