Director(s) – Charlie Kaufman, Duke Johnson
Writer(s) – Charlie Kaufman
Starring – David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tom Noonan
Set to hit UK cinemas 11th March, this stop-motion comedy drama has turned heads in the states; garnering immense critical acclaim. From the mercurial Charlie Kaufman, Anomalisa, despite starring stop-motion puppets, manages to be the most authentically human film released thus far this year.
In 2005, self-help author Michael Stone (Thewlis) travels to Cincinnati, Ohio to promote his latest book at a customer service convention. He is distant to everyone around him, whom he perceives as identical white men with identical faces and voices (Tom Noonan), including his wife and son. He meets Bella in the hotel bar, an old flame of his whose manifestation haunts him; still angry, she is outraged by his invitation to his room and storms out. After taking a shower, Michael hears a female voice. He rushes from his room to find its owner: an insecure young woman named Lisa Hesselman (Leigh). Quickly, he forms a romantic attachment, and finds the excitement his mundane life had been missing.
The screenplay for this film could well be one of the finest pieces of writing in modern cinema; balancing seamlessly both comedy and drama, the dialogue is extremely authentic and entirely stripped of ‘cinematic jargon’. So much so, that it takes some adjustments, as we are so conditioned not to hear people within film or Television actually talk like human beings. Once you get over the naturalistic pauses in speech that accompany genuine human speech patterns, you are rewarded with a rich and subversive work of art.
The themes are deep and haunting; the idea of isolation, of feeling alone and of feeling as though everybody around you were identical clones of one another, are all deep and rich themes that resonate highly with me personally, and allowed me to deeply sympathise with Michael’s situation. The idea that society around you feels like a procession of clones, and you stand alone on an island as an individual confused by the constant flow, is one that works every time when deployed well.
The small touch of having Tom Noonan do every voice that isn’t Michael or Lisa is extraordinarily simple, yet equally clever. It instantly conveys to us the audience that Michael’s state of mind is not entirely stable, and as such his descent into delusion and lunacy is authentic, powerful and moving.
Visually, the claymation is beautifully rendered, whilst adding an extra layer of creepyness that underpins the film’s themes. This isn’t claymation simply as an aesthetic choice, rather it enhances the narrative. It is beautiful and jarring and mesmeric, and thoroughly works.
What I loved about this film above all else was its genuine and touching love story. Both Michael and Lisa are rich and interesting characters and, most importantly feel like actual human beings, human beings with flaws that we can sympathise with and get behind. There is also a beautiful poetry behind the idea of two of society’s outcasts, both scarred and afraid of the world, finding one another and forming a beautiful bond.
In fact, I actually haven’t got a bad thing to say about this film. It moves along at a good pace, never sagging or boring. The characters are all rich, the world beautiful and dynamic, and the central narrative is one of the most touching stories I have ever had the pleasure of viewing. Come March 11th I suggest you head out to your local cinema and see this movie. In a landscape of remakes, reboots and sequels; it is a wholly original and moving piece of cinema that demands to be seen. A modern classic.
Final Rating – 5/5