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Review by Rich Cline |
dir Darren Aronofsky
scr Samuel D Hunter
prd Darren Aronofsky, Jeremy Dawson, Ari Handel
with Brendan Fraser, Hong Chau, Sadie Sink, Ty Simpkins, Samantha Morton, Ryan Heinke, Huck Milner, Sathya Sridharan
release UK Oct.22 lff,
22/US A24 1h57
TORONTO FILM FEST
LONDON FILM FEST
Is it streaming?
Based on Samuel Hunter's play and retaining a stagey claustrophobia, this pointed drama is unusually contained for Darren Aronofsky. It's about how people impact each other for good and bad, and is likely to divide viewers along lines of optimism and cynicism. Although few will be able to resist a startlingly winning performance from Brendan Fraser, even from within an enormous fat suit. And the deeper ideas strike a nerve.
In Idaho, writing professor Charlie (Fraser) is so obese that he hides himself while lecturing at an online college. His nurse friend Liz (Chau) looks in on him daily to make sure that he's still alive, but his heart is weakening, and he's unlikely to survive until the weekend. Young missionary Thomas (Simpkins) shows up at the right moment to help, but Charlie rejects his evangelical message. And then Charlie's 17-year-old daughter Ellie (Sink) appears, bristling with rage nine years after Charlie left his wife (Morton) for a man whose death triggered his overeating spiral.
Hateful religion couched in change-your-life platitudes is the main target, as the love of Charlie's life was driven to suicide because he couldn't reconcile his faith with who he was. So it's fascinating that Charlie engages with Thomas rather than dismissing him flatly like Liz, or messing with him like Ellie. All of this takes place in Charlie's cluttered flat, accompanied by a score that punches each emotion. And there's one metaphor too far in Charlie's obsession with a Moby Dick essay. But the riveting character interaction undercuts this.
Fraser radiates intelligence and humour from within this hulking frame, revealing Charlie's soul. It's a hugely emotive performance that lifts everyone around him. As usual, Chau is wonderfully rounded as a woman who deeply loves and is frustrated by Charlie (for reasons that emerge). In her scene, a first-rate Morton storms the screen with bitterness that lifts when she allows herself to speak the truth. And youngsters Sink and Simpkins find moments of dark honesty when their characters let their guards down.
Each story element is extremely constructed, from the dialog to the camera angles. In particular, the lines are carefully written to convey thematic ideas. Expressions of pointed ideas will carry genuine impact for viewers who maintain an open heart, as the story reaffirms the importance of respect, believing in each other and finding the best side in people, even if that's only a whisper. So while some will resist the film's sentimental approach, others will be profoundly moved.
R E A D E R R E V I E W SStill waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2022 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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