Spoilers have never have tails.
I have a pet peeve with science fiction films that try to tug at the heartstrings too much. Don’t get me wrong, I’m ok with adding personal drama into the genre, but I do believe you can be passionate about science and discovery without having an ulterior personal reason. I fear that filmmakers might consider a character pursuing a discovery/explanation without having emotional stakes in the game not relatable to general audiences, but I would argue you can still be interested for science’s sake. Let’s see what we have here.
The Mandela Effect (2019) is directed by David Guy Levy who wrote it with Steffen Schlachtenhaufen. Brendan (Charlie Hofheimer) and Claire (Aleksa Palladino) have a young daughter they lose due to an accident. While grieving for her, Brendan starts noticing little things he’s misremember from the past. Eventually he stumbles into the Mandela Effect and some of the various conspiracy theories that surround its explanation. Obsessed, he eventually focuses on one in particular that brands the world as a gigantic simulation as explained by noted university professor Dr. Roland Fuchs (Clarke Peters).
The implication here is two-fold. Brendan has been avoiding grieving for his missing daughter by obsessing with a theory that the world is somehow not as it should be, i.e. his daughter should be alive. Or there’s truth about the timeline somehow being altered and his daughter should be alive. Brendan, who designs video games for a living, ends up locating Dr. Fuchs and together they come up with a literal computer interpretation to literally “reset reality”. Now, the Mandela Effect does exist – in the sense that a lot of people misremember common pop culture memes. The explanation that the movie posts is also a known conspiracy theory.
I do have an issue with the way that the solution plays out, which is where Brendan creates a program capable of overloading the supposed world computer using the university’s quantum server. Implying something that exists inside the reality generated by a godlike computer can vanquish its maker felt out of proportion. However that doesn’t compare to the even more preposterous theory by which Brendan believes without any proof that the “right” universe/timeline contains his living daughter. It sounds more plausible that Brendan’s motivations and beliefs are actually influenced by his personal pain.
Regardless of those reservations or because of them, I still think the movie works within its budget to get its ideas across. It made me think about what the theory is and why I had an issue with its resolution. I’m not adverse to sentimentality in science-fiction even when it goes into more of a fantastical realm, but I do believe the main character’s objectivity was compromised by grief. The movie adds one additional angle when Claire perceives she is in the “wrong” timeline. That was an angle I didn’t expect, and I wished it had been explored more. I do think the sentimentality does take precedence over any scientific analysis to force a happy ending instead of facing reality. I think a darker ending would have added much necessary depth to the depiction of grief.
Recommended with reservations. The ideas explored are not without flaws. I dispute both the motivation and the resolution. But I have to give it props for causing questions and thoughts. It does feel at times like a short film made into larger one, but at the same time I commend the filmmaker’s inventive in stretching its budget to communicate its more complicated aspects. Worth a watch if you’re willing to grasp the basic aspect with some leniency to its execution.
That will do for now.