Even before we had published our analysis, this film made our list of gems, the first film named in
(Some of) The Best Time Travel Films You Might Have Missed.
It is quite remarkable and well worth watching.
The film was made in a single day, and it is fascinating to watch so much of it playing out in the end.
11 Minutes Ago is fascinating and entertaining, three stories interwoven, one of which gives a time travel twist to the experience that may be unique in the genre.
Beneath everything else, we are watching a bride's (Kelly, usually Kell) worst nightmare wedding reception. The planned outdoor setting has been flooded by rain, forcing the reception into the bride's mother's house (Martha Peterson) at the last moment. The groom (Stephen), teetotal to this point in his life, is gradually becoming falling-down drunk. Martha has decided to fill the room with balloon sculptures which several guests think are ridiculous. Her divorced husband (Bruce Peterson) is doting on one of the young bridesmaids (Nancy) with whom he has apparently begun an affair, and father and mother snipe at each other during the festivities while Nancy's boyfriend (Trevor) watches the May/December coupling. The maid of honor (Susan), a young widow who has not recovered from her husband's suicide two years before, is in a depressive meltdown. To top it off, the film crew (Narrator Tim, Technical Director Jeffrey, Cameraman Hollis, Sound Engineer Carla, and at least two other unnamed and unseen cameramen) hired to record the event has become fixated on one unidentified party guest and keeps ignoring the bride.
That guest, Pack Eoling, is the second story. He is a traveler from (initially) forty-eight years in the future, who apparently lives in this house then and has built a time "tumbler" in what is now the main bathroom. He has traveled from the future to collect an air sample to be duplicated to restore the atmosphere to a cleaner state, reducing the mortality rate that claimed his own young wife, and restoring the crippled birth rate. His machine allows him to travel in time but not space, and to stay in the past for eleven minutes or never return to his own time. His departures are between three and six months apart. He succeeds, but keeps returning to the party, attending nearly the entire event but almost entirely out of sequence. Since we see the party from the time traveler's sequential timeline, it gives us a wild ride of a party which we see from the end first. It also creates a huge number of predestination paradoxes, as some information he gives the film crew in his later trips to earlier times they give to him in his earlier trips to later times, and some information which they give to him in his earlier trips to later times he gives to them in his later trips to earlier times.
The reason he keeps returning to the party is the third story, a love story developing between the time traveler and the remaining bridesmaid, Cynthia Valco. This, too, is entirely out of sequence, as the first time he sees her she has already fallen for him and kisses him warmly, while the first time she sees him he is trying to work out how to get her to fall in love so that the experiences he has already had will happen.
The fan who recommended this film noted that it works under fixed time theory (granted the acceptance of predestination paradoxes), but that it might not work under replacement theory. That becomes the primary challenge for us: how could these events occur if each trip to the past creates a new history on which other trips become dependent? It will not be simple.
We are given only one vague date, and told that the traveler comes, the first time, from forty-eight years in the future. In his last trip he mentions that the happy couple's third child will run for President in 2052, but that he does not know whether the man wins. If we assume Kelly was a June bride (and June thunderstorms are not that uncommon in North America) that likely places the first trip in June and the last in 2052 or at the earliest late 2051. It is six months between the first and second trips, and three months between each additional pair of trips, seven visits making six periods of three months or eighteen months, exactly two years from the first to the last, so the last trip also happens in June. June of 2051 is probably too early for a presidential candidate to be considered in the running for 2052, so the first departure is from June 2050 and the last from June 2052. Forty-eight years earlier puts the wedding in June 2002.
With this foundation, we can begin.
If you have not seen the film you really must do so. It is one of those rare gems, a little-known time travel film that truly captures its concept, like Los Chronocrimines (Timecrimes), or Happy Accidents, or Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel. Unfortunately, it will be rather difficult even to begin the analysis of the film without including some significant spoilers, points that do not become apparent until the end of the film, and you will probably enjoy the movie considerably more if you have seen it before you read much more of the analysis. An effort is being made to prevent this article from spoiling too much, and hopefully you can find the film before you continue reading.
It will also be one of the most challenging analyses yet written. It is not merely because there are eight distinct and clearly detailed trips from the future to the past, but because the arrivals in the past are very much out of sequence. His first departure from the future is also his last arrival in the past; every subsequent departure from the future has him arriving earlier than that in the past, but always in the two-hour window of the wedding reception, in the same location amidst the same people. Thus each of his later trips alters the circumstances which greet him on his first arrival. This is so completely so that there is not a single event which occurs in the first trip as we see it which would have happened on that arrival in its own original history. The film crew would not have been waiting in the bathroom, and would not have introduced themselves or told him any of the things they had learned from him to that point. Tim would not have mentioned the eight of diamonds. Susan would not have charged him with being the reason Cynthia is leaving the job of yelling at everyone to her. Trevor would not have demanded the return of his camera. The film crew would not have told him that he told them to insist that he return. Most importantly, Cynthia Valco would not grab him and give him a passionate kiss.
There is one more thing that happens in the version of the trip we see which must not have happened: Pack fails to get the air sample he needs to repair the atmosphere in the future. It is essential that this fails.
He gives us the reason quite directly, when he asks why having invented the time tumbler and so being able to spend eleven minutes at any point in history, and having successfully restored the atmosphere in the future, he would choose to return to that time. He does so in the history we see because Cynthia kisses him and the film crew tells him that he insisted, neither of which happens if he has not done so. Thus the reason he returns, in the first history, must be because somehow when he stumbles into that party he gets waylaid, prevented from reaching the closet (it is unclear why the air sample has to come from the closet, but there is apparently a vent there and this is where he draws the air both times) such that he had to rush back to the bathroom to return to the future. Thus he is forced to make a second trip. He has targeted this time in general because the air is the right quality; he suggests that there is a very narrow time from which he can draw the air and have it be right. Why he chose this night is harder to guess, unless we suppose that he has concerns about adjusting the target too much--if it is somehow easier for him to target a time within a few hours of his original point than to target a time a few days different. Possibly, too, the time of day that the air is drawn is important; air in the evening is slightly different from that earlier in the day. He might also have decided that it would be more dangerous to appear in the home of a divorced elderly woman when she is home alone than to appear in the midst of a party, now that he knows it is happening. What matters is, if he does not have to return he won't, and so he must have to return because he failed to obtain the air sample on his first visit.
This also explains the next problem, which is why on his second visit he insisted that the film crew tell him he must return.
The only reason for Pack Eoling to return to that party in 2002 at 8:30 would be if he failed to collect the needed air sample on his first visit at 8:45. This, we said, also explains why the film crew insisted that he must return, and that he told them to tell him this: he must have confided in them.
Consider the situation. Pack arrived at 8:45, but could not get his sample. Someone at the party must have realized that he had just arrived, and detained him--probably the film crew. They have been watching everyone, filming everyone, ensuring everyone is on camera and trying to get comments from every guest. Someone suddenly appears, possibly seen emerging from the bathroom, and they are confused. They missed him, somehow, but who is he? They are in the last fifteen minutes of the party; they have to get him on film quickly--but he is no more ready for them than they are for him, and his efforts to explain that he has come from the future and just needs to get an air sample to take back with him complicate things more. He rushes back and makes it to the future without his sample. But he works on the process, thinks about the problem, and returns to the party at 8:30.
This time he is ready; he knows there is a party, and a film crew, and he has his answers ready. He hits the party enough earlier that the film crew won't panic when they see him.  He takes them into his confidence, gives them what they want from him, gets his sample, and returns to the future.
We cannot know whether Pack Eoling knows the term "infinity loop", but he should realize that he has created a problem. When he departed in June 2050 and arrived at 8:45 he failed because the film crew did not recognize him; arriving fifteen minutes earlier from a departure in December he has defused that, getting his sample but also making it possible for him to get it on his first trip. Yet he also knows that had he succeeded in getting the sample at 8:45, he would not have returned in December, and if he does not make the trip in December he will not be able to get the sample on the previous trip. He must get a message to himself persuading himself to make the trip in December even if he succeeds in getting the sample before that. He does not have much time to do this, but he has one hope: he can persuade the film crew to tell him.
What seems most reasonable is that he explains to them, briefly, that he is a time traveler who six months ago made a trip to this party, arriving in a few minutes from the future, to get this sample to save the atmosphere in the future, but he was unable to get it and had to return to this earlier moment; he needs them to persuade him, if he manages to get the sample, that he must return earlier in the evening. It is the only way he can avert the looming temporal disaster. He can offer them this proof: he will enter the bathroom, shut off the lights, and at 8:41 he will vanish. They can check the bathroom as thoroughly as they like, as long as they have the door closed and the light off by 8:45 so that his earlier self can arrive, who will know nothing of this meeting and will have to be persuaded to make this earlier trip.
That sets up the camera crew waiting for him at 8:45. It should be sufficient proof of his story for them to tell him that he was there before, and begin putting the pieces together. They do not fully understand why he has to return at 8:30, but they tell him that he insisted they tell him to do so. He obtains the sample on the first visit, which he is able to do because on the second he runs interference for himself. He does not understand this; he understands only that when he arrived at 8:45 the film crew said that he insisted they tell him that he must return at 8:30, and when he arrived at 8:30 they did not know why this was. However, if he told them to tell him to return, it must have been important, and he again tells them to tell him to return. If he does, the first two trips stabilize; their insistence that he said they must get him to return becomes his motivation for telling them to tell him this. It also sets up the next visit.
The next big question is why, having made two trips and obtained the air sample, Pack returns again. The smaller question is why he returns to 8:00 instead of 8:15.
We find the answer to the larger question in the previous resolution. In his original trip to 8:30 he recognized the necessity of impressing upon the film crew the necessity of persuading his younger self, due to arrive at 8:45, of the necessity of returning, but he did so with very minimal information which they did not necessarily convey terribly well. Thus the message that he got on his 8:45 trip from June 2050 was that it was absolutely necessary that he return, which indeed he did on his 8:30 arrival from December 2050. Yet since he got the sample on the 8:45 trip he does not understand why he has to be there at 8:30 (he succeeds in running interference for himself, but does not recognize what he has done), so when he insists that the film crew must persuade him to return he gives them even less information, less reason for him to do so, so the message he gets is only that it is very important that he return--an importance he will never understand, because he will never recognize that he would not have gotten the sample on the first trip without the second, and as events unfold he will create a new reason.
However, we once again have events that cannot happen as we see them because he has not yet done what must be done to make them happen. In this case, he spends his eleven minutes which we see trying to find Cynthia, only to have her find him in the last seconds and invite him to join her in the closet in five minutes. Yet the first time he makes this trip, she has never met him; and indeed, it is doubtful whether he has met her--she certainly did not kiss him in the 8:45 block, and she did not talk to him about his question which he has not yet considered asking in the 8:30 block. Once again, nothing we see in the 8:00 block can be what happened on the original trip from March, 2051.
The one thing that does happen in this block is it is announced that they will be tossing the bouquet in fifteen minutes, and Pack realizes he arrived at the wrong time. He had intended to work backwards in fifteen minute increments, undoubtedly searching for the reason he was so adamant that he return, and he missed the 8:15 block. There is not yet a drawing to which he can refer, but he will wonder why he missed it.
It is also likely that he will begin asking about the party guests. There was some reason his self wanted him to return to this party, and he has not yet found it, but it is at least possible that it lies in the identities of the people. He will collect names, learning what he can about anyone he can identify. What he can remember he can expand by searching the Internet in the future.
The relationship between Pack Eoling and Cynthia Valco is a predestination paradox. He becomes interested in her because at 8:45 she kisses him and at 8:30 talks to him about how relaxed she is because at 8:15 they had their tryst and she is basking in the afterglow. They had that tryst because from the moment of his arrival at 7:00 he has been pressing to get her to fall for him and by 8:00 had her enchanted enough that she found the place. They would not have had the 8:15 tryst had he not worked to win her heart from the beginning; he would not have worked to win her heart had she not fallen into his arms at the end. It is an uncaused cause, and we seek the original cause. It probably starts here. In trying to understand why it was so important for him to return, he researches Cynthia Valco, discovering a girl worth getting to know better--graduate school graduate, bright, efficient, yet caring, always putting her friends ahead of herself, single with few past relationships, and friends who hope she will find the right guy.
Something in whatever he learns must pique his interest in her; he begins trying to talk to her. He is not, at first, trying to get her to fall in love with him, because he does not know that that will or even can happen. He is only trying to meet this fascinating girl and discover whether what he read is true.
We are getting ahead of ourselves. He has more trips to make.
When Pack arrives at 8:00, he wonders what went wrong and why he did not arrive at 8:15. That in itself becomes the motivation for making the next trip to 8:15; it is only fortuitous that in later iterations of history it enables him to be told at 8:10 where to meet Cynthia at 8:15 and not miss the tryst. This also avoids another awkward problem, in that once he puts the front end in place the back end is already properly aligned.
He will have had time to learn something about everyone at the party, possibly as much as or more than he knows when he starts talking about them in his final arrival at 7:00. He will probably try to talk to Cynthia, whose bio has caught his attention; but this is the block during which there is going to be a bouquet toss, a group photo, and a garter toss, and Cynthia has no reason at all to miss these, so she will be busy. He will have to return earlier in the night to attempt to make some time with her.
The question might be raised as to whether it is possible for Pack to change the sequence of his visits, either intentionally or accidentally. That is, let us suppose that originally he made the trip from March 2051 to 8:15, and then his experience caused him somehow to change the arrival so that the next time he reached March 2051 he went instead to 8:00. This then erases his departure from March 2051 targeting 8:15, and thus he does not arrive at that time; the altered history is altered.
The problem is that there would have to be a reason for Pack to change his targeted arrival time based on what the Pack alive in March 2051 already knows; that means it would have to be something that occurred because his trip to 8:15 altered events at 8:45 in some way that caused him to change what he was going to do next. However, if that is so, and he erases the 8:15 arrival, he also erases the change that causes him to change the target time, so unless somehow the 8:00 arrival has the same impact on the 8:30 or 8:45 visits, he will lose the reason to make the change, and so will revert to the 8:15 target. This being unlikely, we will then have an infinity loop, as the trip to 8:00 eliminates the reason for changing the target to 8:00, but the trip to 8:15 restores that reason, and so neither arrival can become the history of the universe and time becomes trapped.
In this instance, the matter is moot: Pack knows no reason why he would have arrived at 8:00 instead of 8:15, and therefore it was not intentional. The fact that it was not intentional gives us two advantages in the analysis. The first is that whatever caused the mistake probably will repeat itself, and he will have the trips in the same sequence every time, as long as nothing about the later 8:15 arrival changes whatever it is that caused the mistake. The second is, it gives Pack a motivation for returning to 8:15 from June 2051, in that he is trying to determine why he missed that arrival time the first time.
Of course, in the film, the 8:15 arrival is perhaps the climax of the love story, at least from Cynthia's perspective. (From Pack's perspective, the climax of the love story occurs during the 7:45 segment when she says yes and starts looking for a place.) In its first iteration, though, that trip will be rather different.
The machine Pack has built that enables him to travel to the past is called a time tumbler, and it has several features that are at least interesting, possibly important.
It enables him to travel through time fairly precisely, but not at all through space. For those who object that to travel through time he must also travel through space because the Earth is moving, it is evident that time machines since Wells have generally taken a fixed frame of reference to their point on a planetary sphere, and that isn't really a great problem. We are told, twice, that the tumble must occur in the dark--which saves on special effects, since we never see him arrive or depart, but ought to underscore a significant complication. Pack is arriving in and departing from the main, if not only, bathroom at a party of perhaps thirty or so guests all of whom are drinking, and he requires that the door be closed and the light off at every quarter hour on the quarter hour, and that he be able to enter almost every quarter hour at exactly four minutes before the quarter hour. The odds that the bathroom would never be in use at those times seem slim, and the fact is that he cannot check from the future as to whether his targeted moment is a possible landing time. It was an impractical problem.
We do not know, though, how it works, or why he has only eleven minutes in the past. It is apparent that in order to return to the future he must be in the right place in the dark bathroom at the right time. This opens questions. Does time pass in the future "while" he is in the past? We are to some degree conditioned to think that he must lose the time in his own time which he spends in the past (as The Time Traveler's Wife appears to do), but there is no reason for it. He could as easily return the same instant he leaves (as Edmund Blackadder does); or it could be several days later that he returns.
What is more important, though, is what triggers the return. Again, we are given to linear thinking, and thus assume that it is something like Timeline, that after eleven minutes elapse in the future the machine in the future sends a retrieval tunnel. Were that so, however, we would have the same problem, that Pack would be stuck in the past, unable to return to the future until all the future was resolved, the next minutes happened, and the tunnel was sent. Fortunately, we do not know that it works like that at all. There is no particular reason why the time tumbler could not, at say 8:45 PM on June 15th 2050, open a sending channel to 8:45 PM June 15th 2002 and a retrieval channel to 8:56 June 15th 2002, as if the departure and the return both happen, from the future perspective, simultaneously, but are stretched over a space of eleven minutes in the past. This, in fact, explains why Pack speaks of stretching the time to that length: somehow the arrival in the past and the departure from the past are the same trip, a round trip created in one instant by the tumbler in the future.
That does not necessarily mean that Pack must appear in the future at the instant he departs from the past. After all, as Marty McFly had to remind himself, we're working with a time machine. There's no particular reason of which we are aware that the tumbler could not create a trip that took Pack forty-eight years into the past, allowed him to stay for eleven minutes, retrieved him, and dropped him one minute in the future. What matters is only that the return trip must be generated at the same instant as the outgoing trip; otherwise, we have some anomalies that are extremely complicated, as Pack cannot leave the past until the future arrives, and then he leaves the past and never is aware that he was stranded.
When September 2051 arrives, Pack changes his strategy and tumbles not to the next earlier quarter hour of 7:45 but to a half hour earlier, at 7:15. In the movie his explanation for this makes perfect sense: at 8:00 Cynthia is going to invite him to join her in the closet at 8:15, and if he is going to make sense of the night and see how this happened, he wants to live it in sequence. However, assuming replacement theory, the first time he comes from March and June 2051 to, respectively, 8:00 and 8:15, he has not yet left from September 2051 and so cannot yet have arrived at any of the earlier moments, and so Cynthia has never met him before that moment and is not going to extend her invitation. That means either Pack did not come back at those earlier times, or he had a different reason for doing so. That reason must cover both that he comes at all and that he changes his strategy, changing the sequence of his visits.
We earlier considered the possibility that Pack could resequence his arrival times, and this time the question is not moot. Once he has made the three trips to 7:15, 7:30, and 7:45, the events of 8:00, 8:15, 8:30, and 8:45 are entirely altered, revolving around the closet tryst. It could well be that he made the original trips in reverse order, stumbled into the tryst at some point, and then decided (not knowing that the trips were originally made backwards) that he wanted to live them in sequence to make it work right.
Given this scenario, we could imagine that he arrived at 7:45 and made some progress getting to know Cynthia, and started to like her; then he arrived at 7:30, altered the scenario significantly changing what happens at 7:45, and determined to come back again at 7:15. Once he arrived at 7:15, he changed all subsequent trips again, meeting Cynthia for what would in that timeline be the first time, getting to know her better, and setting up the tryst in the closet. That tryst becomes the reason for changing the targeted arrival times. He thus then departs from September 2051 intending to reach 7:15 rather than 7:45.
We assume that the departure occurs at the same instant, and thus that the original departure to 7:45 is not yet erased. However, neither are the original arrivals: When Pack arrives at 7:15 from September 2051, his older self who originally arrived from March 2052 is already there, and unaware of having made the earlier trip to that time. This will confuse events, as the September Pack arrives again at 7:45, then the other arrivals occur, and we advance into the future to September, when again Pack leaves for 7:15, stabilizing for the moment into an N-jump, but then as time continues erasing his departure for 7:45 and so not arriving at 7:45. His non-arrival at 7:45 means he is not there to finish the seduction, the tryst does not happen, and our history collapses into a complicated multiple-trip infinity loop.
Any configuration of changes to these earlier trips will have much the same result; therefore, Pack must have made the original September 2051 trip to 7:15, and therefore he must have had another reason for doing so. Perhaps, though, he has one. He has to this point been unable to determine why he told the film crew at 8:30 to insist at 8:45 that he must return, and his efforts to find the problem by working backwards have yielded information about the people but not the reason he had to return. It has to be confusing to him to be learning backwards, and if he goes earlier he can resolve the problem of having to run interference for himself--they will already know who he is. Thus the 7:15 arrival is again originally motivated by the desire to figure out why he told himself to return. It also incidentally becomes the beginning of his conversations with Cynthia, despite the fact that he has not yet asked the question.
As Pack decides to tumble back earlier, arriving at 7:15 instead of 7:45, he begins to put events in sequence--but there are still some interesting quirks in his visit.
The first time he left from June 2051 and arrived at 8:15, he knew he had been there at 8:00 and would arrive again twice more; he had not yet visited earlier in the evening. Because he wants to get to know these people, he decides to travel back a bit further. Thus history stabilizes through June 2051, and he makes his next trip in September, to 7:15. In this first visit to 7:15, no one has yet met him, he has not performed the card trick nor borrowed Trevor's camera, and he has not asked Cynthia his mystery question. He expects that in three months he will return to 7:30, and thus when he steps into the bathroom to tumble he thinks he will be back in four minutes. He won't. He will not return at 7:30, nor at 7:45, showing up again at 8:00 with no knowledge of either his 8:15 visit or his 7:15 visit.
It is possible that he might make the drawing at this time, to explain himself to the camera crew. If so, it will not include the 7:00 arrival, because at this point he has no intention of returning at seven and they have no knowledge of his presence at that time. He might include his 7:30 and 7:45 arrivals, because he intends to make them; the arrivals after that are already included.
In any case, it makes his 8:00 return a bit awkward, particularly since he may have told some people that he will be back before then, and they are going to wonder where he was. This will confuse his 8:00 self, who having come from March 2051 does not know of his decision to travel to 7:15, and will wonder why he did that in addition to wondering why he did not arrive at 8:15. This might derail history, if he changes his target to 7:15 before making the 8:15 trip, but since he seems to be methodical it will probably be the case that he does not make that change, and so keeps the order.
He has something of the same problem when he makes the first trip from December 2051 to 7:30. This time he has already been here at 7:15, and so he is not new to everyone; but he is probably still dealing with the skepticism of the film crew while simultaneously trying to get to know Cynthia better. At this point he is falling in love; and since his way of getting to know her probably is not going to be that much different (getting her to call attention to details in order to create memories of the event) she is probably also falling in love with him. However, at 7:45 he is nowhere to be found, and at 8:00 they will have to pick up their relationship where they left off at 7:41, and it is not quite yet going to become what we see.
There are some interesting possibilities there. She might kiss him at 8:50, and she might ask whether she can see him again; he might tell her that he does not know, that he is supposed to be leaving immediately after the party. His reason for returning starts to change--our predestination paradox that is their relationship begins moving toward its final form. What happens as the end changes begins to infect the beginning.
He places the final piece in that chain when he arrives at 7:45 from March 2052. This will cement his relationship with Cynthia--nothing he will do in the 7:00 block has much impact on that part of the story other than that he asks the question which she at that point intends to ignore. It will lead to her 8:10 invitation to the 8:15 tryst. It seems even more likely that she will ask whether--or this time when--she can see him again. It is at this point that he decides to make the final trip.
The final trip has to be made several times before it stabilizes, though, so we will begin looking at that next time.
No one thinks twice when Steven points at Pack and says, "even if there are two of him." Steven has never been drunk before in his entire life, and the notion that he is seeing double and doesn't recognize it as a symptom of his condition is the immediate conclusion everyone draws. Poor, misunderstood, drunk Steven, though, is absolutely right. He is the only person at the party who realizes that at the same time that Pack Eoling is interacting with party guests and making a nuisance of himself, he is also behind the crosshatched screen filming everything with Trevor's camera. We don't know it, either, until the last seconds of the last visit (which is his earliest arrival at 7:00), when Trevor hands him the camera so he can dance with the demanding and petulant Nancy. This introduces the thread in which Trevor keeps asking for its return, which confuses Pack because he does not know what he is going to do with it, even in his last pass through history.
There are a number of other things he does that are not entirely clear in their intent. Some of them will have to be considered individually, and some of them simply have no answer. He suggests to Mr. Peterson that he consider a trip to Aruba, which does not seem to have any further impact in the story. Remembering how important his trips from the future will become to the film crew in the end, he introduces himself to them now and tells them that they will want to have as much coverage of this historic event as they can gather.
It is also now that he asks his question. It is a strange question. He already knows that between 7:15 and 8:00 Cynthia is going to fall in love with him, that at 8:15 they will vanish into the closet, and that at 8:30 she will say she hopes he will let it be memorable for more than just that. He probably could have asked if she would marry him, gotten a huge laugh out of it, and then possibly gotten a yes at the end of the night. He keeps it simple, though: would she have dinner with him after the reception? At the beginning of the night she sees no reason even to consider it; but he already knows that they will leave together. It is a happily ever after ending, very well executed.
That, in fact, is the point of his return at 7:00: he is planning to stay. He overstays the eleven minutes, planning to hide somewhere. The camera is a boon; on his first 7:00 arrival he had no idea that Trevor would hand it to him or what he would do with it, but he took advantage of that to film the entire event from the hiding place where only Steven knows he is hidden, emerging only when the action moves to the other room for the bouquet toss (Pack's camera view is the one with the time stamps that appear periodically through the film, and the end gives us its record of the entire reception at varying high speeds). When the history repeats, he will know that Trevor must have given him the camera and that he stayed and kept it, so he will be prepared for that moment, as we see in the final history.
There are still a few wrinkles, though, that are not so easily resolved, because it is clear that Pack takes some actions based entirely on information he got from the future which he probably could not have gotten had he not taken those actions. The easier one to resolve is why he mentions to Mrs. Peterson that she might fill the room with balloon sculptures. If he does not mention it, she will not do it, and if she does not do it he will not see them and know that she did. This, though, is easily resolved, as he overhears Reverend Kellerman telling Susan about Mrs. Peterson's work with children's parties, and Pack's future Internet research uncovers many details about the lives of the people at the party, so the fact that she makes balloon sculptures for those parties is not so unlikely to be included.
The biggest problem, though, is the card trick. It is a big enough problem to require separate consideration.
The simplest predestination paradox in the film is also the hardest to resolve: how does Pack do the card trick?
The trick is rather simple in its final form. When Pack arrives for his first visit at the end of the night, Tim tells him that his card was the eight of diamonds. When he later arrives at the beginning of the night, he borrows a deck of cards and tells Tim blindly to pick the eight of diamonds, which he does. Pack knows which card Tim will pick because Tim has already told him, in Tim's future but Pack's past, which card it was. The problem is that until Pack makes his final trip to 7:00 and performs the trick there will be no card, but he cannot do the trick without having done it. Thus in no version of history prior to the one initiated by the 7:00 arrival could there be any mention of the eight of diamonds. Yet if Tim never mentions having drawn the eight of diamonds, Pack has no reason to believe he can do the trick and no reason to attempt it, and therefore Tim will never draw a card.
The way to resolve an uncaused cause under replacement theory is to find the point at which some other original cause could kickstart the events, which then is replaced by the substitute cause that stabilizes history. We see it with transwarp teleportation in Star Trek (2009): Montgomery Scott originally invents it, Spock learns it, then when he travels to the past he shows the formula to Scotty who now is credited as the inventor but never actually invented it, which does not matter because Spock still will learn that he did. The problem here is that it is difficult to find a reason for Pack to attempt the trick if he does not already know the card, and impossible for him to know the card if he has not attempted the trick.
Note, too, that given probabilities of cards the same trick must be done at the same moment. Mrs. Peterson is holding the cards, and has presumably been shuffling them; Pack must borrow them at the exact same moment so that they are in the same configuration. He must hand them to Mr. Peterson the same way, who must present them the same way to Tim, who must pick the same one. It will not work for someone else to have done a trick and Pack to have learned the card and done a different trick that has the same result. Even changing the words to "Pick the eight of diamonds" from "Pick any card" could make a psychological difference on which card Tim picks. If Tim were told to pick a card, he would take any card; were he told to pick the ace of spades or other significant card he would undoubtedly ponder how to know which it was. Being told to pick a specific but insignificant card--eight of diamonds, four of clubs--falls between the two, not quite the same process as "Pick any card," but not quite the same as "Pick the Queen of Hearts," and being different from both has a different impact than either, and a good chance of producing a different result.
It might be that Pack is playing with time. He has already thought about this, wondering whether he can change his question now that he knows the answer (a separate problem, because on the first trip through that time block he has not asked the question). He could be wondering how it works. Here is a deck of cards; if I have Tim pick one and insist that he tell me later in the night, will I then immediately know what card it is that he told me on my previous visit?
The answer to that probably is no. There is a sense in which changes to your past instantly alter your past experience in your present; but they do so because you lived those changes. There might be a variant of replacement theory in which at the instant you made a change in your past which impacts yourself in the future, you and all reality were yanked back to the moment that the change reaches you; but then, for that moment to exist all of the time from the moment the change was made to the moment it reaches you would also have to be experienced by everyone else. Such changes must play through events to have their impact, and thus if Pack expected to know what card it is the instant Tim draws it because Tim would tell him in the future, he would be disappointed.
Yet something like this must have happened.
We examined the complexities posed by Pack's card trick: because in their future they told him what card Tim drew, he was able in their past to tell Tim what card to draw. There is an improbable but not impossible solution.
Assuming that Pack is willing to play with time, to see what happens, he decides upon his arrival at 7:00 that he is going to attempt to alter the future with a card trick. Perhaps he assumes telling Tim to pick a card will result in him knowing the card the instant it is picked; we have already addressed that possibility. He takes the cards from Mrs. Peterson, hands them to Mr. Peterson, and tells Tim to pick a card. He has no idea what card it will be, so he says simply, "Pick a card."
Pack does not gain instant knowledge of the card, so he tells Tim, "Tell me later tonight what card that is." This still does not give him instant knowledge of the card, so he figures the trick does not work.
Later in the night Pack arrives. Tim tells him what card it was. Pack does not know what that means, but retains the information, and has time to consider it. When he finally arrives at seven, he takes the cards, gives them to Mr. Peterson, and tells Tim to pick that card.
Here we hit the complication and the danger. Pack changed the trick. He is not telling Tim to pick a card, but which card to pick. That changes the psychology of Tim's approach to the cards, and very likely means he will pick a different card. That might not matter. After all, if Tim picked any ordinary card the first time--the three of spades, the nine of hearts--his mental approach will be different from picking any card; but which card is named will not change that. That is, if he is told to pick the three of spades (because that is what he picked the first time) he probably won't, but if he then picks the eight of diamonds, tells this to Pack, and Pack returns to tell him to pick the eight of diamonds, the psychological difference between "Pick the three of spades" and "Pick the eight of diamonds" is probably not sufficient to change what card he picks, and thus we stabilize as Tim picks the eight of diamonds, is impressed, and tells him later in the night that he picked the eight of diamonds.
There is the danger that we won't get that far. Tim might not tell Pack which card he picked after the first attempt, and he might not tell him that he guessed the wrong card on the second attempt, that it was the eight of diamonds not the three of spades. If he does not, it might plunge us into an infinity loop, as Tim's failure to mention the second card sets up the attempt to do the trick (Pack does not know that it failed), and doing the trick restores the first attempt. (If Tim fails to mention picking the three of spades on the first attempt, then that will stabilize, that Pack attempted the trick and failed; what we won't get is the history in which the trick works.)
There is, though, the second danger. There are twelve royals and four aces, nearly a third of the deck, which might be considered "significant". If Tim drew one of those on the first attempt, then when Pack tells him to draw that card on the second attempt, this initiates a different psychological process than if he tells him to draw a specific ordinary card. Further, if on the first pass Tim draws an ordinary card, he still has a 30% chance of drawing a significant card on the second pass, and that would mean a change in the other direction, from ordinary to significant, and we wind up never pulling the same card twice in a row because the psychology is always different.
Luck must have been with Pack. Tim must have drawn an ordinary card the first time, and when told to draw that ordinary card on the second pass drew the eight of diamonds, and Pack must then have told him to draw that ordinary card, the eight of diamonds, the third time through, which stabilizes history.
It is an implausible and risky trick, but it is possible to get the history we see if Pack does this, and within the realm of credibility that he might.
We wish Pack and Cynthia a wonderful future, but we still have a few concerns.
Pack has given up a great deal to be here with Cynthia. He is going to have to explain it to her at some point. After all, he can't introduce her to his parents--in the immortal words of Marty McFly, "They're not home...yet." Nor can they visit their graves. What is more problematic, perhaps, is that he is going to have to get a job. He has invented a time tumbler, but odds are that it has components that won't be available for several decades, and that even if he could invent it again he would not. His understanding of technology is so far beyond anything we know (he did graduate work in time travel) that, like Mr. Scott talking to the computer he will find it difficult to work with our "quaint" antiques--but he has no credentials, no diplomas, no school records, nothing to show a potential employer that confirms he knows anything at all.
The genetic problem is probably not significant. Even if we assume that Pack and Cynthia have children who would not otherwise have been born, and that some other children are not born because of it, it seems likely that Pack's parents are already alive and old enough that they will not marry Pack's children, so he will probably be born on schedule. What is more significant is the impact on technology: Pack is almost certain to make a living creating devices that are cutting edge, and so driving the technology world forward, which in turn will mean that technology will be ahead of what it was when he begins working on his tumbler. That might impact his trips to the past, and that would change everything in very complicated ways. On the other hand, no one else is aware of his time tumbler, and he has every reason to believe he was the first to do it, so it seems less likely that the changes he makes will impact him that much.
On the other hand, there is the problem of the documentary. The film crew shifted their focus away from the bride and her memories in order to capture this historic event, and having withstood her wrath for it they certainly are going to publish their product. They'll discover Trevor's tape, and use pieces of it to produce the movie we watched--not as fiction, but as the record of the arrival of the first time traveler. Maybe no one will believe it, at least at first; but at some point someone is going to realize that the guy in the movie looks like a slightly older version of the Pack Eoling in their school, and that if he using his theories developed a device to travel to the past, it must be possible to do so. When an idea is ripe, the mere recognition of its possibility puts multiple inventors on the effort, and someone might beat Pack to his own discovery. This, though, would also be a temporal disaster--if Pack does not discover the time tumbler first, it may well be that he never makes the trip (wouldn't the first discoverer use it for the obvious purpose as presented in the film, thus eliminating the need for Pack to do so?) and the movie is never made, and that means the replacement inventor never gets that inspiration and does not invent the machine. We have an infinity loop.
There is also a minor question concerning Mrs. Robinson's home. If it is her house, and Pack lives in it in the future, what is the chain of events that puts him there, and does his relationship with Cynthia compromise this? They obviously know and are known by the owner, and they probably will want a home of their own. Even if they do not take this one, they might stir the real estate market (similarly to the genetic problem) such that someone else buys this house and Pack lives somewhere else.
The fact that Pack stays in the past thus changes the future, and might do so in disastrous ways; but it does not necessarily do so in disastrous ways, so we rest in the hope that everything will work for the happy couple despite their temporal displacement.