THE Glasgow Film Festival closed things out in fine style this year with Anomalisa, the wonderfully peculiar and poignant new film from Charlie Kaufman.
The inimitable mind behind such brilliant works as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Being John Malkovich and Adaptation brings us this stop-motion story of Michael Stone (voiced by David Thewlis), a lonely self-help author whose mundane life experiences causes him to see and hear everyone as the same (Tom Noonan). This is until he meets the titular Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh), an awkward and facially scarred young woman with whom he shares a once-in-a-lifetime experience in a Cincinnati hotel.
What sets the film apart even from most other stop-motion animations is that the characters are made to look eerily real without actually being played by actors on-screen. It’s a kind off quasi-real where the faces are segmented (with the bottom half literally falling off at one point) but whose characterisation and textured emotion makes them feel all the more real to us.
Kaufman, who co-directs the film with stop-motion specialist Duke Johnson, has always been interested in oddballs, misfits and those who just can’t seem to find a way to fit in or get on in life as others around them. Michael is no different and, with him at the centre, the director explores the meaning of human interaction, reciprocal love and finding your soul mate, if indeed there is such a thing.
The choice to have all but the two leads look and sound pretty much identical is a fascinating one – the name of the fictionalised hotel location, “Fregoli,” is actually a real life medical disorder in which the sufferer believes everyone around them is the same person – and it lies at the heart of what the film is trying to say.
Michael sees Lisa as special, an anomaly standing out from a world that has grown painfully generic to him. But is it proof that soul mates really do exist? Or simply rose-tinted, even delusional wishful thinking that this wonderful singular connection can last forever? Kaufman manages to explore these things (and much more besides) in a genuinely insightful, heartfelt way that avoids manipulation while allowing the film to wear its emotions firmly on its sleeve.
We don’t get films like Anomalisa very often. Not just because of the distinctive stop-motion style but because of how unafraid it is of brutally, frighteningly honest introspection. Profoundly melancholic, awkwardly funny, charmingly strange and subtly moving all at once, it may not be live action but this is more human than most other movies that you’re likely to see.