Hilarious, ridiculous, absurd, poignant and moving.
Paul Dano plays Hank, a man stranded on an island and on the brink of suicide when a corpse washes up ashore and distracts him. Daniel Radcliffe plays the corpse, Manny, who saves Hank and gives him a new reason to survive. The two embark on a journey together; Hank trying to find his way home and Manny trying to find out what life is.
Somehow despite the slightly juvenile comedy of a multipurpose farting corpse, it’s a moving story about loneliness, depression, and hope. Both men play their parts perfectly, Dano as the sensitive (and borderline creepy) loner looking for a reason to live, and Radcliffe as the personification of this journey. It’s possibly the best I’ve ever seen from Radcliffe – his movements are brilliantly awkward and his dialogue and delivery is excellent. He provides both comedy and insight to Hank’s struggle.
The central subjects of depression and loneliness are handled sensitively and I think the tone used is spot on. There’s great realism to Dano’s performance, and the dialogue is used really well. Manny is the catalyst for Hank’s introspection; his questions about life allow Hank to explore himself and question himself in a way that’s not too dark and intense or too self indulgent and soppy for the audience. The message that the audience ultimately takes away is that it is possible to find happiness within yourself.
The only criticism I could make is towards the end of the film. I think the story itself lost its way a little, but I could forgive it that – it wasn’t ever predictable, which is a good thing. Maybe with a second watch I’ll appreciate the ending more.
The film itself is well put together – the music has a lovely immediacy because it’s often hummed by Hank, and the “memory” sequences with Manny have a warm, soft-edged style to them. A pleasure to watch.