First published in the Cary News on April 28, 2009
John Koestler (Nicolas Cage), a professor at MIT, knows which side of the debate he falls on when he teaches his students about choices. Are they random or determined? Stuff just happens, he tells his class. He tries to live his life accordingly. When he’s not teaching in class or taking care of his partially deaf son, Caleb (Chandler Canterbury), he drinks away his sorrows. He’s unhappy that his wife passed away in an accident and has taken a passive seat on the life bus. Although like everyone, he wants desperately to know that life isn’t a waste, his highest goal has become keeping his son “safe.” If stuff just happens, he won’t let anything happen to Caleb by keeping him home.
One day, something happens which challenges his beliefs to the core. His son’s school is opening the time capsule a class buried in 1959, 50 year ago. Each student gets to open a letter from a student describing the future. Out of all the letters possible, Caleb gets the most disturbing one, a letter covered with seemingly random numbers. During one of his typical drunken stupors, John studies the numbers carefully and decides the same thing that Richard Dreyfuss did in Close Encounters: “This means something.” Of course his confidantes all think he has lost his marbles, so John must seek out the truth in an alternate way. He finds a fitting colleague in the somewhat creepy, somewhat attractive Diana (Rose Byrne), who has a connection with the original creator of the letter Caleb opened from the time capsule.