If you haven’t yet caught wind of Daniels’ (an amalgamation of directors Daniel Kwan and Scheinert) first cinematic outing, Swiss Army Man, suffice to say it’s weird. Daniels have already cut their teeth on the weird, take their video for DJ Snake’s Turn Down for What, and Swiss Army Man begins with a similar gross-out gimmick. Quite how it’s stretched to a 90 minute running time is arguably the film’s greatest achievement, alongside the emotional highs and ponderous depths it manages to explore in an otherwise shallow premise.
Plot-wise it’s absurd, but nothing complex. Castaway Hank (Paul Dano) rides a beached corpse (Daniel Radcliffe) across an ocean propelled by its post-mortem flatulence, proceeding to act as a quasi-paternal figure to it as they journey to reach civilisation and an unrequited love. Radcliffe’s the best he’s been in anything thus far in his career – at least since shedding the lightning bolt scar – in a role at once childlike, wise and scared of its own erection, and Dano is as strong as ever in the awkward outcast shtick he can practically do in his sleep by now.
Daniels’ debut manages to be more life-affirming than a film with a premise half this weird has any right to be. The film’s unique brand of euphoria is accompanied by, and often a result of, an acapella score featuring the vocals of its two stars. It’s as much an internal monologue for each character as it is a soundtrack, with notable lyrics including “rescued/ I thought I was rescued/ but you’re just a dead dude/ and I’m gonna die”.
The film’s ending throws a lot at the audience in terms of development: introducing characters only alluded to previously in a barrage of plot details and character moments that weighs down the otherwise lean tale. But despite this sudden burst of complexity the film nonetheless manages to hit its final note with a strong emotional punch. If you’re willing to look past these minor flaws, plus a bit of navel-gazing muddying the self-searching, then prepare to let Radcliffe and Dano fart their way into your heart.
[Ronan Duff – @DonanRuff]