Review of 'Chronological Order'

Door to the Past, Literally

Chronological Order, the 2010 feature-length movie I recently saw on Amazon Prime, certainly deserves an award, which would be for the most unlikely time-travel device I've ever come across on page or screen. That would be a door that our protagonist, a guy by the name of Guy, finds floating in the ocean. He and we soon learn that when he stands it up and walks through it, he walks a little or longer into the past.

That's a great set-up for a time-travel story in the science fantasy genre. But the execution and development leaves a lot to be desired. I'm always up for a low-key, slice-of-life presentation. But Chronological Order is so low-key as to seem desultory, and although this reflects the persona and the predicament on the protagonist, it also makes it difficult for the viewer to keep focus or even, in my case, continuing interest.

Nonetheless, Chronological Order does have something, in its unusual set-up and even its meandering pace. Lurking behind everything Guy does is the question of free will, which comes up whenever the time traveler in the present sees himself in the future, or when the unknowing time traveler in the past (before his present self has traveled to the past) sees his present self in the past for the first time. If I'm wearing a blue shirt today, and I travel to the past to yesterday, where I see myself wearing that blue shirt, does that mean I in yesterday will have no choice but to put on that blue shirt when I get dressed today? If the answer is yes, that negates or erases my free will to put on whatever shirt I please.

Guy wears lots of shirts in Chronological Order, and grapples with rather than explicates the inherent problem of free will in this story. Just to be clear: I'm a firm believer in free will. I don't believe it's a necessary illusion of intelligent life. And it's one reason (in addition to the grandfather paradox, which can only be solved by the multiple-universe hypothesis, even more incredible than time travel) that I think time travel is impossible, whether low-key and unfocused or keenly drawn on a razor's edge. Though, I've always admired a point that Chance (played by Hugh Laurie) made in the first season of that series on Hulu last year, "Someone once asked William James if he believed in Free Will. 'Of course,' James replied. 'What choice do I have?'"

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Review of 'Chronological Order'
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