Frequency The Film And The Malleability Of Time In ‘Fiction!’
What If We Could Change The Past?
In October 1969, FDNY firefighter Frank Sullivan (Quaid) dies in a warehouse fire, leaving behind his wife Julia (Elizabeth Mitchell) and six-year-old son John. Thirty years later, in 1999, John (Caviezel), now an NYPD detective, is dumped by his girlfriend Samantha for being emotionally shut off. John’s childhood friend Gordo (Noah Emmerich) finds a Heathkit single-sideband ham radio that once belonged to Frank, but fails to get it working. The night before the anniversary of his father’s death, John is surprised to find the radio broadcasting during an occurrence of the aurora borealis, and has a brief conversation with another man concerning the 1969 World Series, which John is able to recount in specific detail. Eventually, he realizes that the other man is his father in 1969 and tries to warn him of his impending death. The next day, while attempting to rescue a young girl, Frank remembers John’s warning and manages to escape the warehouse. That evening, the two reconnect and learn a great deal about each other’s lives.
Subsequently, John begins to notice major changes in the present: His mother Julia no longer lives at her current address, Samantha doesn’t recognize him, and he learns that Frank died in 1989 from lung cancer. His boss, Sgt. Satch DeLeon (Andre Braugher), an old friend of Frank’s, assigns him to investigate the “Nightingale”, a serial killer who murdered three nurses in the 1960s and was never caught. However, John discovers that the Nightingale is now connected to ten murders, including that of his mother two weeks after Frank’s now-avoided death. Feeling guilty that their actions somehow led to the Nightingale committing more murders, John persuades his father to help him prevent these crimes from occurring. Frank manages to save the first victim. But when he tries to rescue the second, the Nightingale subdues him, steals his driver’s license, and plants it on the victim to frame Frank for the murder.
When Frank shares his experience with his son, John realizes Frank’s wallet has the Nightingale’s fingerprints. John instructs his father to wrap his wallet in plastic and hide it somewhere in the house where John can find it 30 years later. Using the preserved fingerprints from the wallet, John identifies the Nightingale as Jack Shepard (Shawn Doyle), a former detective. In the original timeline, Shepard died from a medical error the same night Frank died. But since, in the new timeline, Julia didn’t leave the hospital early after learning of Frank’s death, she was at the hospital and prevented the error that would have killed Shepard. Meanwhile, Frank is approached by then-Detective Satch DeLeon who tries to arrest him on suspicion of murder. In the resulting struggle, the radio is knocked over and sustains damage, shutting it off. At the station, Frank attempts to prove his innocence to Satch by being able to accurately predict various aspects of the 1969 World Series, including the infamous Game 5 “shoe polish incident”. While awaiting questioning, Frank activates the precinct’s fire sprinkler system, escapes, and breaks into Shepard’s apartment, where he finds jewelry taken from the victims. Shepard catches Frank in the act and pursues him, ending with a fight underwater where Frank appears to have killed Shepard. Satch, having realized that Frank was telling the truth, arrives in time to witness the struggle, finds the jewelry from the victims and Frank is exonerated.
Frank fixes the radio, but while talking both he and John are attacked by the 1969 and 1999 versions of Shepard. Using a shotgun, Frank manages to blow off Shepard’s right hand in 1969 and Shepard flees, causing Shepherd’s hand to disappear in 1999 just as he’s about to kill John as the changes in the past affect the present. Furnishings in the house begin to change as the timeline rapidly fixes itself in 1999 and an elderly Frank, having quit smoking to avoid his death in 1989, appears and kills Shepard with the same shotgun, and embraces his son. The film concludes with a baseball game including John, Samantha (now his wife), John’s young son, Frank, Julia, Satch and Gordo, who’s now wealthy on account of having invested in Yahoo! on John’s advice through the radio. 🌐
What If We Could Change The Past?