Backtrack: Stirring up Tragic Memories to Find the Truth

Backtrack: Stirring up Tragic Memories to Find the Truth

Backtrack-4Tragedy stirs up memories often so terrible we try to suppress them, especially when they are part of a monumental event we don’t particularly want to remember.

The brain can be very selective, but the devil is always in the details as Psychologist Peter Bower played intensely by Academy award winning actor Adrien Brody (The Pianist) finds out.

Brody has a sad expressive face, deeply soulful eyes and a vulnerable demeanour, one that enables him with great finesse to brilliantly portray a man in deep trauma.

There is obviously a terrifying secret in Bower’s past, one affecting everyone around him. He discovers he has to backtrack into his past life, in order to find the truth of what is happening to him in the present, and why.

Rated R, Backtrack is a new Australian mystery thriller written and directed by Michael Petroni, soon to be released worldwide, which has a superb musical score by Dale Cornelius.


When we meet Peter Bower’s his mind is playing games with him, teasing him unmercifully as he attempts to discover why the patients he sees in rooms in the backstreets of a city, where an elevated train above the road, thunders by his window relentlessly, all seem strange to say the very least.

Each one of them seems to have suffered a terrifying trauma and collectively they are to coin a phrase, ‘ a weird mob’ from a world half way between a horror movie and a mystery place, one where time seems to have stood still.

Everything is subjective, open to our interpretation after all; so please don’t read any more if you don’t want spoilers.

Bower seeks help from Professor Duncan Stewart (Sam Neill) his tutor at University. In the peace and quiet of his book-lined office, he presents his mentor with a recollection of the events happening to him from his perspective.

As they talk Bower finds his whole life thrown into further turmoil as over a few sessions he gradually discovers the Professor, and indeed all of the clients he is seeing are not real after all.

Backtrack-1He is forced to probe deeper and deeper into his own past so he can uncover what is happening to him. It’s clearly not 1987 and Ronald Reagan is not President of America as a reasonably menacing patient with an ever-moving leg and foot (Bruce Spence) tries to convince us…

… everyone has the latest iPhone so we know that what is happening is about the here and now!

As we inhabit Bower’s present world we encounter windows blown open, doors that rattle mysteriously, and a distraught child named Elizabeth Valentine who keeps appearing in her hooded coat seeking his help although she cannot or is unwilling to speak

She seems to be able to met morph from one room to another without moving.

When she leaves a doll on the floor for him to pick up, well then we know everything is getting very serious indeed. When it turns up on the seat of his car out in the countryside without explanation, it becomes even spookier.

Backtrack 10Then there is his wife. She’s at home on medication and drifting her life away each day sleeping in bed. Will it all make sense soon?

Discovering it is one year after they have both so tragically lost their only daughter Evie, helps us to understand a little more.

Bower we find took his eyes off his daughter Evie, turning to look in a shop window as she was riding her bike along the footpath in front of him

Backtrack-8It was only for seconds really, but enough that she attempted to cross the road without him and was run down and killed.

She regularly appears to him during his day, because she can’t rest until she helps him to relieve the burden weighing on his mind, the one that distracted him for that brief moment.

She forgives him and wants him to forgive himself.

The only way that can happen is for him to find out what is it that ensured he looked away? Why can’t he remember?

The numbers 12787 written down by Elizabeth the vanishing child are significant, and so Bower goes on a journey to find out why the accident happened.

It leads him back to False Creek the country town where he grew up and a meeting with the father he hasn’t seen for over 20 years, who has now retired from being the local policeman.

He moves back into his old room, which his father hasn’t touched and suddenly finds himself back in a past he wanted to forget and shudderingly, all its secrets are still intact.

Backtrack 2In his father’s place down at the station is a very smart young policewoman that Bower discovers is the daughter of one of his ‘patients’.

She’s very understanding when he remembers a great deal and comes to unburden himself by giving a statement.

She realises what he is telling her is not the whole story and so she starts investigating in files below stairs. Turning up anomalies in the original investigation, presided over by Peter Bower’s father, can only lead to answers, which she can’t know will also threaten her life.

Backtrack 5So what is it that happened to Peter Bower when he was a teenager?

Who was involved and what responsibility did they all have in what really happened.

As he unravels the truth about a huge catastrophe we realise how painful his memories are and why he has buried them so deeply.

Bringing them back to the surface is the only way both his mind and body can heal and as a psychologist, he knows that only too well.

I won’t reveal the ending, except to say the complexities of Bower’s current life are connected to when he and his friend covered up what it is they really witnessed on one fateful night when a train derailed and 47 people died.

Backtrack 7Adrien Brody and Sam Neill together in one movie certainly seemed to me great casting, they both have achieved so much in their careers to date.

Clearly I wanted to become hooked, but despite a sustained atmosphere of tension throughout, Backtrack had me believing I was merely enjoying a case of de ja vu. At all stages I was seemingly one step ahead in finding answers to the questions he was asking.

This did take an edge of my own pleasure, despite intelligent writing and superb music from Dale Cornelius setting the right tone, with the truly excellent Adrien Brody supported by good performances from the rest of the cast.

The action in Backtrack takes place in a familiar setting; the city of Melbourne and picturesque regional Victoria and my conclusion is that this is a film you will either love or hate because I just can’t imagine there will be more than 50 atmospheric shades of black, blue and grey in between.

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2015


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