Screenwriter Christopher McBride made a surprise appearance in 2012 with the quasi-documentary conspiracy investigative thriller The Conspiracy, in which he proved the existence of a mysterious, powerful organization that rules the world.
Seven years later, he directed the fantasy thriller Frederick Fitzell’s Choice, which explores the influence of the past on the present. The problem is that the past can be fictional, and the present turns out to be too real.
Frederick Fitzel has a well-paid job, a big house and a beautiful sweetheart. But besides the well-arranged present, there is also a secret in the past, which he recalls on the eve of an important presentation. And he no longer thinks about a career event, all absorbed in the search for a former classmate. He is looking for school friends, communicates with them, with other people. Memories turn into flashbacks, as real as everything that happens: childhood (offended but charming six-year-old Freddie), school (offended teenager), Cindy’s mysterious classmate, drug overdose.
And suddenly he realizes that the present has mixed with the past, which has become the same active reality as the present. Someone shows him different versions of the past and the future, giving the hero an illusory opportunity to choose the best one. The sequence of events is woven into a maze, the possible is entangled with the past, the future remains unpredictable.
The meaning of the film
It turns out that you can live in the past and the present at the same time, but you can not manage either one or the other. The understanding of this is realized in the original title of the film: “Teaching Frederick Fitzel”, which can also be understood as “Learning from the example of Frederick Fitzel”.
The most important thing for the protagonist is to understand who or what decides for him. He understands that he does not choose what and how to do. Memories, reflections, assumptions, experiences and fantasies form the image of reflection of a person standing on the threshold of an important life decision.
The protagonist, played by Dylan O. Bryan, transforms over the course of the film from a successful, self-confident person into a restless neurotic, trying to figure out what is happening in his life.
Of the other participants in what is happening, Cindy Williams (Maika Monroe) attracts the most attention, serving as a kind of mystery tuning fork.
The normality of Mrs. Fitzell (Liisa Repo-Martell) sets off the changes taking place in the psychological state of her husband.
This film can be considered an answer to the Hollywood dream of being able to fix the present by changing the past. The furthest in terms of meaning is Groundhog Day, in which a person is given maximum opportunities to move in any direction, however, within one day.
Closer in pessimism is “The Butterfly Effect” (2003), but there is also a purely American theme of overcoming any obstacles by personal efforts, as in the films “The Time Traveler’s Wife” or “Regions of Darkness”. With these films, “The Choice of Frederick Fitzell” has a fairly positive denouement in common.
Obviously, this is one of the few American films that is difficult to take in parts. And it’s not about the confusing plot: all the flashbacks, games of drugged imagination and mystical incidents do not just confuse, but move the plot, helping it to develop, connecting the characters and events. But if you miss something, you can lose the understanding that all this happens in time, at its different segments, attribute everything either to painful delirium or to pure mysticism in the style of “Doctor No”. But, having watched it to the end, you are convinced that everything that happened throughout the film makes sense. Another thing is that this meaning is not very positive and not everyone likes it – especially the participants in the events they saw.