Flashback Ending Explained & Film Analysis

In the Canadian psychological thriller Flashback (2020), director Christopher McBride plays with the concept of time to match Christopher Nolan with his spectacular tricks in The Butterfly Effect or Areas of Darkness. Watching this rather strong, impressive and confusing movie with a lot of deliberate assumptions is difficult if you do not discard the idea of ​​the usual division of time into past, present and future. The philosophical basis of the psychological thriller Flashback is the concept of temporal multidimensionality with the foundations of the theories of internalism and presentism of time.

What is the meaning of the movie Flashback

Frederick Fitchell is a 30-year-old white collar worker from Toronto. In the life of a successful and prosperous young man, there is everything that is customary to strive for: a stable job, a good home, a good bride, and a beloved mother. But in the depths of his consciousness, the question “is this how I live?” flashes every now and then:

Can he prefer the visual arts he studied at the university to the boring work of a corporate clerk? But what if, instead of the accommodating and unpretentious Karen, you find a creative girlfriend – like the nonconformist Cindy Williams, whom he knew in high school? What to do with the fact that it is impossible to influence the state of the mother, suffering from an incurable disease and fading before his eyes?

When reality becomes unbearable, a person tends to take a trip into his own mind. With the help of the experimental substance “Mercury”, Freddie goes into the depths of his consciousness, so that he no longer stands at a crossroads between real life and expectations from it. Only there he will be able to find the answer to the question why he could not realize his dreams and was forever mired in routine.


The additional name of the film – Flashback – indicates that the movie is assembled from flashes of memories of the protagonist, his hallucinations, trips and paranoid ideas. The visual series is represented by stunning plans of a person lost in himself. And the main theme here is the search for an answer to the question, where lies the line between reality and fiction, real and artificial.

The film is not recommended for impressionable people – due to sharp transitions, bright lighting and rich contrast, the meaning of what is happening on the screen will be completely lost for them. These different kinds of stimuli deliberately create discomfort – so that the viewer can feel how a person feels entangled in his own worlds. An important detail in the picture are the drawings of the protagonist, who dreamed of becoming an artist. This is a kind of portal between the real and the imagined. For example, the image of a “man with a scar” from the future, or a giant monster (in the form of many blurry toothy mouths superimposed on each other) that has been following him since childhood.

The main trick of the director is the absolute absence of a “rebound” between visions from different time layers, the next memory always starts unexpectedly. Even a sophisticated viewer is confused by the ragged outline of the story in the first part, but a powerful and unexpected ending can produce an almost cathartic effect on emotional lovers of psychedelics.

The original name of the project, Flashback, stands for The Education of Fredrick Fitzell. The film’s official slogan is “In the blink of an eye your life can turn upside down”.


You can fantasize as much as you like on the basis of which simulation – virtual or mental – the film is built on. If we start from the images and facts shown by Christopher McBride, then in general the movie can be interpreted as one big metaphor for growing up. When a person thinks about his destiny and freedom of choice, when he rushes between an interesting and rich rebellious life and a comfortable, but everyday and boring existence. Then the meaning of the plot will be simple: it is in the eternal conflict of young anarchists and ordinary middle-aged people.

Flashback translates the phrase about everyone as a blacksmith of his own happiness, beyond the criteria of “true” and “falsehood”. Through his prism, these words and both at the same time: yes, each blacksmith of his own happiness, but for this everyone must understand where to knock on the blank, because hitting the right one will give form and satisfaction with the result, and the wrong one will bring noise and fatigue .

What actually happens in the movie? On the threshold of his thirtieth birthday, Fred thinks about his place in history, begins to doubt the correctness of his actions. Having worked through the back streets of his memory, he comes to the conclusion that the opportunities lost and remaining in the past could not necessarily be better than the option that exists here and now. As a result, the main character forever closes the door to alternative lives for himself and puts his current reality in order. In this way, he frees himself from past traumatic experiences and chooses a calm current reality: he returns to office work again, comes to terms with the natural passing of the sick Missy Fitzell, marries Karen and becomes a father.

Frederick is rapidly growing up, takes responsibility for his actions and chooses a measured and predictable life instead of rebellion and anarchy. The viewer should not delve into what is really happening to the main character – whether he really changes his past or simply erases or modifies memories of past events. The bottom line is that he constantly makes a choice, and does not run away from circumstances.

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