by Alan Yudman
The directors of SWISS ARMY MAN say the movie is about farting. I’d go them one better. It’s about farting and mental illness. This is one batshit weird movie that is absolutely great.
Paul Dano is stranded on an island and about to hang himself when he notices the body of Daniel Radcliffe wash up on shore. He runs to him hoping he’s alive. Is he alive? Well, after a while Dano really believes Radcliffe is alive. And that is when the real fun, weirdness begins. Dano uses Radcliffe like a multi-tool all to get back to civilization. His farts power him like a motorboat. He stores and regurgitates water. He can launch projectiles over great distances like an air rifle. His male parts act like a homing device, pointing the way home. And he talks. So he’s not dead, because he talks. But maybe he is dead and it is all in Dano’s head.
As Dano traverses a forest with Radcliffe in tow, he keeps checking his phone for a signal. His battery is seriously low. So he tries to keep it off as much as possible. But Radcliffe gets a glimpse of the beautiful woman on the lock screen and makes up a whole life story about her that he has to return to. But is it his story, or Dano’s. I’m trying to decide how much to reveal here about where the story goes, but suffice it to say I have only scratched the surface.
The film seems to be about one thing, namely a man’s struggle for survival. But it may really be about mental illness and depression and how we deal with a disappointing life. Or maybe both are the same thing? It is an interesting question that the filmmakers only partially answer and leave it to the audience to decide.
Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert are “Daniels”, the directors and screenwriters. They have crafted a funny and touching story that will leave you thinking and scratching your head with wonder. It will also have you laughing out loud for much of its 95 minutes. Dano and Radcliffe are outstanding actors and have instant chemistry. That really helps ground this weird premise and difficult story.
Any film that makes me think, that makes me question my life and my choices is one to put on the top of the year’s best. SWISS ARMY MAN is one of those films.
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