The small decisions.
Those little choices we make without a great deal of thought sometimes become the first link in a chain of life events that can spiral horribly out of control, or change positively the direction of one's life. Those brief moments where --when some years later, during a moment of reflection--we think: "If only I had..."
I had a serious crush on Mary during my freshman and sophomore years in high school. But she was out of my league, I thought, so I didn't ask her out. I was too scared, and too insecure. I eventually began a serious relationship with another girl who, during my senior year, inspired me to go to college.
Mary sat immediately beside me during graduation. About mid-way through the ceremony, she leaned in and whispered: "You probably don't know this, but I've always had a crush on you." I wanted then and there to ask her out. By that time I'd developed the confidence to, and she suggested she would be willing to go on a date. All I had to do was ask her out.
Instead, I smiled and told her I hoped we kept in touch after graduation.
Not asking her out at that moment kept me on a course to college, during which time I: fell into a niche career path that would not have been possible elsewhere at the time; met and fell in love with my wife; and raised a bunch of wonderful and interesting kids along the way.
"If only I had..." may well have eliminated those possibilities.
Such is the Butterfly Effect: the term used in Chaos Theory to demonstrate how physical systems -no matter how complex they may be - rely upon an underlying order, and that very simple or small systems and events can cause very complex behaviors or events. In other words, a butterfly flapping it's wings in the United States may cause a monsoon months later in Asia.
(I looked that up, just to be sure.)
It's this theory that served as the inspiration for The Butterfly Effect (2004) staring Ashton Kutcher. The Butterfly Effect 2 is pretty much the same movie as the original (which was a movie I liked), with a less talented cast and not-as-impressive special effects.
Here's the skinny: One tragic event in 2004--that occurs on the birthday of a central character-- changes the lives of four friends. Nick, played by Jason Lively, soon realizes he has the ability to go back to that day and change it so that the outcome isn't as tragic. His plan backfires, of course, when he realizes that his changing history effected other aspects of the lives he and his friends have lived. Sometimes dramatically so. He goes back and forth through time during the course of that year to change events, and remedy problems his actions have created.
The Butterfly Effect 2 isn't a great movie, but it's not the worst I've seen this year. It lasts only 90 minutes or so, if you have nothing else to do...