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In the movie Safety Not Guaranteed, Kenneth's ad was (emphasis mine):

"Wanted: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. You'll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. I have only done this once before. Safety not guaranteed."

Was there any indication or hint in the movie that Kenneth was able to time-travel (before he meets Darius and her colleagues)?

Is there any indication or hint in the movie that it was indeed a time-traveling Kenneth who crashed his car into Belinda's then-boyfriend's house (proving Kenneth's claim that if Belinda is alive, then his time traveling worked)?

What about any other hint that Kenneth was able to time-travel (in his attempt with Darius)?

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7 Answers

Belinda told Darius that Kenneth was not her type, that she was just being nice to him. No way is she the type to stay at home while her friends partied, as Kenneth had said to Darius. People with deep crushes often misjudge any kindness done to them by the object of their desire. They probably never really ever dated, but in Kenneth's very creative but emotionally immature mind, he thought they had a relationship.

Perhaps he was the one who crashed into her house in the first place and killed her. I think the story is suggesting, by the wording of the newspaper ad, that he did go back in time and tried to rewrite history - but maybe he didn't travel back far enough and was already in the car (the second time) when the car was about to crash. Maybe this time, with foreknowledge, he was able to slam on the brakes sooner and only caused minor damage to her boyfriend's house. What triggered the first, fatal accident, which in turn triggered Kenneth's devotion to mastering the art of time travel in order to erase regrets and correct past mistakes? Perhaps, in unaltered time, he had been following Belinda home one evening, after work, saw her with her boyfriend, freaked out when his illusions were shattered, slammed his foot on the gas (again perhaps without realizing what he was doing due to his highly emotional state), sending the car smashing into her (or the boyfriend's ) house, accidentally killing her. He seems too mild-mannered to have wanted to actually harm Belinda.

I think Kenneth did travel back in time, did change what happened to Belinda, and maybe now he wanted to go back again to make more changes? When Darius confronts Kenneth with the news that Belinda is alive, he exclaims that obviously his previous stint at time travel had therefore worked. I find it strange that he would not have immediately tried to find this out the results of his time-travel intervention upon his return, for himself, if he was that obsessed with her.

And why advertise for a "side-kick" to go along with him back in time again? To alleviate loneliness? To fit in with the heroic image he had set up of himself as a Doctor Who type hero? Maybe he had gone in search of Belinda when he returned from his first trip back into time and seen that even had she lived, she would not have chosen to be with him. Perhaps he was subconsciously hedging his bets? If, during his second attempt to time travel and change things, he couldn't make Belinda fall in love with him, at least he would have his faithful sidekick?

Actually, I don't think we should over-analyze this movie: this movie is all about the ability to suspend your disbelief and accept that reality - and the past - can be altered, and that not everything is as we think we are perceiving things to be..... Hey, we all have regrets, but one way to rise above them is to acknowledge past mistakes and make sure we don't repeat those same mistakes. Our mistakes and regrets hopefully teach us to be kinder, better people.

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Of course he time traveled. He went back once before, saved his ex girlfriend by crashing his car into her house. He must've run the original deadly car off the road before crashing into her house. He wanted to return again so he could prevent himself from crashing into her house in the hopes of getting her back but then he met Darius and he changed his mission to save her mother. Which is where they went in the end. Great movie!

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I think that it's supposed to be open ended, but I believe he probably did time travel in one scenario. My other thoughts are that he never time travelled but wanted to because he was in love with the only girl that didn't make fun of him and was going to fix his mistakes. Though by Darius falling in love with him he didn't need to fix his past. My last thought is he was totally crazy and built a suicide machine and this was a very dark ending of two lost souls. In any case I was left wanting more and was left wanting the magazine story or some answers.

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He did time travel, but he over shot and changed the time line.

He showed up prior to the two of them dating, and because of that he never got to be with her. The fact that he said he did it once before means he went back to save her life, but now the second time, he is trying to go back in order to save the relationship they had before the time line changed.

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I think he did time travel to save Belinda and was successful. Perhaps he intentionally crashed his car into Belinda's boyfriend's house sometime before the actual accident that would kill her. By already having crashed into the house, he somehow prevented the future event where the drunk band member would have crashed into the house; thus having saved her. And maybe, in his mind, crashing into the house was the best way to alter future events without having to explain the details to Belinda or anyone.

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He didn't time travel before.

If he had successfully saved Brenda, he would have known that he saved her.

Darius caught him off guard when she told him she had met with Brenda and Kenneth retreated back into the fantasy world that he had built after he crashed his car into her house.

However, the video interview of Kenneth seems to have been made after he and Brenda time-travel at the end.

And that's the way it is.

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There are so many answers already, but I thought I'd chuck my hat into the ring!

Firstly, some information on the background of the film. It was created due to this posting in the classified section of the Backwoods Home Magazine. So as it was posted here, it was always going to be used verbatim in the movie.

That might mean nothing, but it's worth bearing in mind throughout the whole process of answering the question. The inclusion of the line wasn't really up to the director so much as it was staying true to the real story.

The second thing to discuss is did he ever really time travel? This should be obvious to anyone who watched and paid attention to the movie, but in case it's not, this is from an interview with the director:

Throughout the movie, the relationships between the characters are the central focus, rather than the actual time machine itself. I noticed that the machine was so hidden you only get glimpses of it. Was that a conscious choice to have the device in the background for most of the movie?

Yeah. It really isn’t a movie about the time machine. And yes, you do see a part of it very briefly in the middle, but it could be anything. We all wanted to maintain the tension in the movie by really bouncing you back and forth as to whether you believe that there’s really a time machine or not at all. Whether it works or not is another question, but I fell like if there’s a ping-pong thing going on, if you believe it or you don’t, the paddles get closer and closer and by the end you’re like, “Is it?” Then you get the answer to that thing.

To me, the movie ends when Darius chooses to walk across the plank. I think what happens after that is obviously a lot of fun. And emotionally and narratively, the movie is over to a certain extent after that scene, except for the fact that we don't get the answer to, "Is this person crazy or not?" or "Is she getting off the boat with the right person?" [Laughs.] That’s one of the reasons I think the film could be a little too ambiguous to be satisfying.

The way it ends could arguably be unexpected. The whole time you're asking yourself, "Is this real?" or "Is this just going to end up as some lesson?"

Rock and roll. [Laughs.] I did one shot that would allow us to change that outcome because the time machine was always in it and that was always there, so it was just a matter of what happens after he hits that button. It’s a series of making five shots there that are different. In allowing that from technical stand points, from having it being shot with a big, wide camera, we still could play with it and do whatever we needed to do. It left that possibility there.

First of all, when I first brought the possibility up while we were shooting, people were joking and the alternative ending was preposterous at the time. But then you don’t really know what it's gonna be like until you see the movie through. So when we were actually able to see the way the film played out, I felt like that ending was gonna work.

I love a certain kind of film, and because of that I almost felt a responsibility for it to end the way it did. It became very clear at a certain point where I just couldn’t do it any other way. It had to be this way. If not, why did we sit through this hour and a half?

So I'm aware this is all just background to your real question, but I think it's important to give context to the film.

Now your real question: Had Kenneth ever successfully time travelled before?

The answer is that it's left ambiguous and totally up to the viewer to speculate. However, speculate many viewers have. Here is a fantastic thread over at IMDB completely devoted to it.

There are a few arguments in favour of either outcome. The usual argument against him having time travelled before is that he doesn't know he's saved Brenda - so how could he have done it in the past. However, other arguments counter this by saying his act of saving her didn't necessarily mean he knew her.

My views are actually rather brilliantly identical to a poster on the IMDB thread, so I'm quite happily going to quote from his text:

He has travelled before.... Follow me...

I can only speculate that the truth behind Kenneth and Belinda's relationship is really a blend of both their accounts. It's easy to see how a socially awkward man such as Kenneth could build up a friendship to be more than it really was. Conversely it would be easy to see how Belinda may have been more than friends with Kenneth only to have her perception of him change. Therefore...

2001- a. He and Belinda are together, she is killed. (His given account) HER ORIGINAL FATE.... A car struck the house she was in.

Intervention Future version steps in. She is NOT killed.

b. He and Belinda are just friends, he is crazy. (Her given account) HER MODIFIED FATE.... His car struck the house she was in.

2012- He travels back, 1st attmept. He "knows" 2001 "A" to be true. Living with grief and on the run, he develpos a time machine to fix the past...

These efforts cause the events of 2001 "B". However he returns to 2012 unaware that his attempt at saving Belinda was successful and he continues to live as if 2001 "A" was still in effect.

2012- He places the ad and recruits Darius. The film plays out just as we see with her ultimately informing him that Belinda is still alive.

Let me edit this to say that I believe he was responsible for Belinda's death in 2001 "A" and is striving to fix that. The account of events he gives Darius is only a half truth in that he leaves out his responsibility.

However, it's important to stress that the answer is entirely up to the viewer - exactly as the film makers wanted it to be. Remember, in this film time travel as a sci fi medium is much smaller element than time travel as an emotional one - the idea of rectifying past mistakes.

My advice would be to watch the movie and decide which storyline fits your interpretation of the movie best. There are good arguments on either side, but from my point of view, I like the version of events I posted.

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