This stop motion film from Charlie Kaufman is one of the most human and genuine movies I’ve seen. Here, Charlie Kaufman teams with Duke Johnson to bring us the story of Michael, played by David Thewlis, who works as an inspirational speaker but is unable to connect with others. This enables the movie to explore themes of loneliness, depression and isolation in a poignant manner.
Initially some of the techniques used seemed odd but as the film begins to reveal itself to you, they make perfect sense and do a great job of putting you in the main characters head space. The choice to have every character look the same and be played by the same actor is bold but serves a clear narrative purpose as it enables the audience to connect and feel sympathy for Michael, despite him not always being wholly likeable. It highlights how an individual such as Michael views the world and how he can’t connect with people on a human level as everyone is nondescript. A very impressive Tom Noonan is tasked is playing every other character bar Lisa, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh. Through Lisa, Michael thinks he has found someone who he believes he can connect with and allow himself to feel something for, something that has clearly eluded him for a long time.
On a technical level, this film is a joy to behold and impressed me greatly. There were numerous long takes with multiple location changes which must have been hugely challenging. The cinematography and lighting really helps ground the characters in this space and helps the locations feel real. The detail in the environments is second to none and you never question whether or not these could be genuine locations. Clearly a lot of love and attention to detail was poured into every frame. Everything on display contributes to the overarching themes and ideas the film presents. On one hand, the film feels realistic in order to draw you in to the world and make it feel tangible. The film does not shy away from the banality of everyday life, with mundane tasks being allowed to run their course. Then, through the character design for example, makes you feel disconnected and isolated from the world at large. Every element works in harmony with one another to give this film a very strange quality to it. One of the movies standout sequences is a tender and very realistic sex scene. The way it presents this scene is very unique with its slow pacing and lingering on the minute details that occur. It is a sequence that is sweet and emotional yet it is also uncomfortable and awkward. A real masterstroke on the filmmakers behalf.
As an individual who hasn’t experienced feelings of depression and isolation like the film presents, the film still affected me personally a great deal. It is presented so well that almost everyone will be able to identify with it on some level. However, I would love to know how people who have suffered with these afflictions feel how accurately the film aligns with their own experiences.
Overall this is a fantastic film that I have only grown to appreciate more upon reflection. I hope Charlie Kaufman is able to finance more of his projects as he’s demonstrated himself to be a true auteur and artist, able to delve deep in to the human condition and challenge the audience in meaningful ways.