There was a moment in the movie 41 when I thought to myself, I’ve never enjoyed a more thoroughly awful movie so much before. Yes, I realize that sentence doesn’t even make sense. But, like 41, this sentence is a perfect Gordian knot that better explains the low low budget, Australian, indie time travel flick than I ever could outright. I think the best way to put it plainly is this, sometimes it is more important to investigate an idea, than to nail its particulars. The acting here is poor. The sets and the casting, nonexistent. The directing is mediocre at best. The lot of it is best seen as an nearly acceptable senior class project. But it is the big ideas behind this little film that could, that propel it to us today. It is the insightful resolutions and mindjob twists that are really worth our trouble and our time.
Here on THiNC. we pride ourselves on looking for under valued films within the mainstream cinema world to discuss and unpack together. We look for movies that the box office has passed over because it is in this slush pile that we find independent film makers that are the least beholden to formula and Hollywood expectation. By daring to make the movie 41, we see things that aren’t generally done in film. And that is the exciting bit. If you are trying to decide if it is worth your time, I’d most liken it to Timecrimes, Diverge, or actually, maybe Anti Matter would be more apropos? Here, regardless have a trailer…
So you can see for yourself, really really low production quality. And yet, it’s here. On this page… being promoted by me, for you to see! It’s got to have something more going on here. GOT TO. So, why don’t we dig in and see what we can see under the hood of this little car, shall we? But from here on out be spoilers.
The Movie 41 Deep Dive Walkthrough
The movie starts out with our protagonist, Aidan, arriving to tell himself a warning. Yes, you heard me correctly. Aidan shows up, and tells Aidan, not to go to the Heathscape Hotel. Now, remember, this is a SPOILER FILLED discussion. And that being the case, I figure, heck, let’s blow this thing up right out of the gates and start with this complicated little diagram I created of the entirety of the movie and the directions through time Aidan moved.
And granted, sans context, this diagram is complicated to take in. But after I flipped back through some of the timelines and infographics I created in the past, I figured I needed to do one for this movie too. For instance, Timecrimes, or my diagram Live Die Repeat maybe, or Mr. Nobody’s shattered timeline, or this Dark intrigue poster I threw together, or maybe some Upstream Color goodness? You get the idea. But yeah, I figured I might as well throw some paint at this movie’s timeline as well. If anyone knows Glenn Triggs, and can entice him to come out of hiding for an interview – maybe this interview will inform him what kind of nutter I am, and that he should actually steer clear? Alright, let’s dive into the timeline.
41 Movie Timeline Aidan#1
As the movie kicks off, Aidan heads to university, and then afterwards he has the surreal encounter to meet himself. Aidan’s other self tells him, “Do not… NOT, go to the Heathscape Motel. Afterwards, he goes and visits with his grandmother – and while there he gets a call from himself and his brother in timeline 3 asking what his brother’s middle name is.
After visiting with his grandmother, he heads to the Heathscape Motel, completely disregarding his own advice. He sees his ex-girlfriend, Lauren, whom he broke up with several years ago. They have dinner, hear something crash (A2), and then Aidan offers to give her a ride home. And during the drive, Aidan crashes and kills Lauren. Aidan heads to the hospital where he meets Patient X who tells him he needs to get to the Heathscape Motel, room 41 specifically. So he breaks out of the hospital, heads to the hotel and breaks into the room through the window. He finds the hole in the bathroom Patient X told him about, and he goes in.
41 Movie Timeline Aidan#2
When Aidan comes out of the hotel room and onto the balcony, he sees A1 about to invite Lauren to dinner. Aidan2 follows the two of them to the cafe and watches from afar. The person next to Aidan2 tells him that his paper was extraordinary this time, and that he should join his physics discussion club. PAPER? What paper? Anyway, in his excitement he bumps into a waitress and causes things to crash – which A1 hears. Aidan2 runs to the spot on the road A1 and Lauren crashes, but ends up being the cause for the crash. Aidan2 runs back to the hotel room 41, and sees that Patient X is there on the bed, having attempted suicide.
41 Movie Timeline Aidan#3
Aidan3 heads to his brother’s house, and he attempts to tell his brother that he has jumped in time. To prove it, he has his brother call his own phone, and Aidan1 picks up. Aidan’s brother asks him what his brother’s middle name is, he answers South, and then hangs up. After this dinner, he runs out to the spot where the accident happens and Aidan3 tackles Aidan2, attempting to save Lauren from getting killed in the accident. But as they are lying in the grass, Aidan3 hears the car crash anyway. Aidan3 heads back to the time portal with Lauren’s body (but she just disappears – can someone explain this logic to me? Like all of it. Why did he take her in the first place? Why did she disappear? Did he just leave her in the hole? Gah.)
41 Movie Timeline Aidan#4
The beginning of the 4th timeline is this weird science/physics discussion group Aidan was invited to. It is funny in that Aidan poses a hypothetical question to this group as a fictional play, asking for help on how to solve this literary conundrum (but the girlfriend keeps dying!). But all I could think about was Glenn Triggs, asking his fictional characters for help with the sticking points in this conundrum filled plot! hahah. Regardless, the question for Aidan that is on the table is simple enough – how does he change Lauren’s fate? Nothing is working. And the big take away from this conversation, that literally changes Aidan’s perspective on what to do next, is that he needs to change the person, not the event. Or that was my take away anyway.
After he leaves the physics discussion group, he is captured by the agents that had originally told him not to leave the hospital. And when Aidan4 tells them about the time portal and about his not having anything to do with the accident, the agents ask him why he doesn’t break himself out if this is true. Voila, just like that, the fire alarm goes off. But it wasn’t another Aidan that pulled the alarm, rather it was Patient X (which is significant from a narrative standpoint, in that it would require one more detail that we would have had to clean up later, as we’ll see in a second). And in kicking over the trashcan nearby, Aidan sees a hacksaw that allows Aidan to saw off his handcuffs and flee. (I knew IMMEDIATELY that Aidan5 was going to have put that there for Aidan4…)
41 Movie Timeline Aidan#5
Aidan jumps backwards in time, and places the hacksaw under the trashcan for his previous timeline, then heads off to the diner. He meets Patient X there, but this time X seems fairly well adjusted and normal. Aidan begins to think that there is significance in the change that X was able to make, and that things aren’t determined… but, in fact, may actually be changeable, which is always the push and pull of time travel movies. You think they are about time travel, and about love. But no. They are actually a metanarrative discussing freewill and determinism. I digress though, because right now, Aidan is more concerned about saving Lauren, not with having a philosophical discussion. And so he heads back to room 41 and finds Patient X there, but this time, a raving lunatic. The two are chased by the owner of the motel.
And I’m going to pause right here a second and discuss this guy. The owner. Right? Now, tell me… the very first time that Aidan walks into the the motel, and meets Lauren. Remember that? Did you, or did you not, IMMEDIATELY guess who the motel owner was? Right, all those of you that guessed correctly, please raise your hands. Interesting. All those who didn’t? OK, and how many of you would like me to finish the timeline so that we can actually talk about what it all means. OH! hahah. OK, I’m going already. Geeze. What I meant to say was, AidanX was chasing Aidan5, and Aidan starts traveling back and back, and further back in time.
41 Movie Timeline Aidan#6
Into the hole, out of the hole… and he stops at the point where Aidan and Lauren broke up. (Speaking of which, Aidan mentions that they broke up “several years ago,” and in order to go, let’s say, 3 years back, he would have had to jump into that hole, and back out again, two thousand one hundred ninety times! Aidan’s calves and biceps should be ripped! hahah.)
Now, we see Aidan arguing with Lauren, and eventually walking away. But then we see Aidan crawl out of Lauren’s closet (which isn’t creepy at all), and we cut away. But soon after this scene, we start to notice Aidan1 (otherwise known as Aidan) and Lauren continuing their relationship when it shouldn’t actually be continuing. But with Aidan and Lauren back together again, Aidan6 has nothing to do in this time – and so he heads back to the motel.
41 Movie Timeline Aidan#7
Aidan, not content with his calves and biceps workout to go back in time three years, decides to go back in time 74 years. (Not to be anal retentive, but that would literally be over 50,000 entrances and exits. And that doesn’t count for sleeping, eating, breaks, interruptions by guests staying in the hotel room…which, we see that there are plenty of. We also don’t see any embarrassing wait times for individuals sitting on the toilet. If we account for that, sleep, food, and other things, I’m guessing his trip back in time probably took him well over 2 months to pull off. And that’s with things going well! Hahahah. So funny. He could bike across the United States faster!)
Regardless, our tired, but intrepid hero arrives in 1941! And what does he do? He meets his grandfather and then saves him from the infamous death-via-golf ball story his grandmother loves to tell anyone who will listen. And with that?!? There is only one last thing for Aidan7 to figure out. And that is, what the heck should he do with himself? He can’t hang out with Lauren, she’s with Aidan1 (though I would have stolen her and taken her back in time with me. With the knowledge of where the stock market goes, and even a rudimentary knowledge of sports he would soon be a billionaire!) and so he eventually takes over as the manager of the Heathscape Hotel. Right? We’ve covered this before. And with that, the movie ends with Aiden and Lauren deciding to walk instead of drive… but it also wouldn’t have been a huge deal because they weren’t broken up. They’d just choose not to drive, as opposed to driving on that fateful day.
The Ending of the Movie 41 Explained
There is a very clear, and unambiguous answer to what happens at the end of the movie. I sort of explained what happened above. But not really how the times flow at the end. And even the movie doesn’t discuss all of the various issues and problems still outstanding.
So, as I said above, the glitch of this film is that any top level change refused to allow Lauren to survive. All summarized by the phrase, “Don’t go to the Heathscape Motel.” But nothing Aidan does allows her to survive. Not going to the spot to warn himself. Not taking himself out, and keep him from trying to warn them. And so he realized, the only real solution was to not have separated in the first place. By not ever separating, he keeps himself from stumbling upon her at the hotel. Which, in turn, 100% totally changes the line of the original (white timeline above) storyline. Which solves the key point of the movie – which was, how does Aidan save his lost love of his life.
The second large question that faces us as we come to the end is – what the heck happens to the extra Aidan? Well, as we discussed, he becomes the hotel manager and waits his entire life in order to see himself avoid the pitfalls he originally caused. But, that isn’t the right question to ask. The right question to ask is, where did ALL of the Aidan’s go? Here, let me pull a diagram I created for Primer that will explain the problem:
Whenever someone walks into a time machine, they come out, backwards in time. And the logic would say, as long as the you of the future gets into that time machine, you have one long line of you, even if there are two of you standing in one room at the same time. But there is nothing forcing your future you to get in the hole. Sure, they did once, but they might not. Heck, you could walk up to the hole with a backhoe and fill it with 12 stories of fill dirt. And then there would always be two of you. Which, (again, relying on my trusty Primer post diagrams again) would look something like this:
Which, was a very very important detail for Primer, but wasn’t really discussed much in this movie. There could be piles and piles of Aidan’s at the end of the movie, to be honest.
But What Does It All Mean?
As the movie ends, we are given the following quote:
“We are not really here that long, and for the majority of us, we only get one chance, at all of this.”
Doesn’t it feel like we are shown the amount of work necessary to correct a simple mistake – which was Aidan’s breaking up with the girl of his dreams? And couple that with the fact that we only get one chance at this life, maybe we shouldn’t be too proud to ask forgiveness and apologize? Maybe it is in our best interest to regularly consider the long term impacts of our choices. Yes, your decision between Taco Bell and McDonald’s probably doesn’t matter much (minus the fact that you should have chosen NEITHER). But it could be that your pigheadedness with your spouse, or daughter, your parent, over some issue that ultimately didn’t matter is really going to have lasting impacts throughout your life. Could this be the message of 41?
In the making of 41 documentary, Glenn Triggs talks about how he saw the movie as if the world existed in a multiverse where any possibility could actually happen, but maybe not actually to you. So, you make a mistake with your spouse, and the next thing you know, you are divorced and on the street. But in the next universe over it could be that that mistake didn’t actually happen. And the old Aidan signifies this universe where the mistake happened – but the young Aidan, the one that ends up with Lauren is signifying this other multiverse universe where the mistake never happened.
Which, is interesting, because with Primer, Shane Carruth’s story had nothing to do with time travel. It was all about what would make a strong relationship fall apart? What level of power would corrupt that kind of friendship? And here we have a time travel movie talking about mistakes and our short time on earth. About how we need to be super careful with the people that we love and the choices that we make in this short amount of time that we have.
Edited by, CY