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“Swiss Army Man” is a film that I heard every online pundit and reader slam based on Sundance word-of-mouth and an early trailer. I was fascinated by its oddity, but never felt the urge to seek it out. That was my fault. When we get such a stunning indie film in the middle of the summer, all audiences benefit. I don’t care how you get to this film. Whether it’s your appreciation of the music videos directed by the Directors, a Daniel Radcliffe fandom or appreciation of Paul Dano…just see this film.

Beginning with a man trying to commit suicide on a desert island, he mets a corpse that has floated on shore. All the while, he projects his inner feelings on the dead body and begins plotting a new life. All the while, we starts to see memories of an unfulfilled life slipping in through the cracks. A beautiful woman on a bus, memories of Jurassic Park and the longing to return to normalcy. Much has been made of film’s overuse of the unreliable narrator. But, this is different.

Paul Dano is unreliable to himself and the audiences gets sucked into his delusions. The lack of clarity on what’s real and what isn’t is very appreciated. A character having a psychotic break shouldn’t be able to return to reality easily. By forcing audiences to adapt to his troubled worldview, the viewer is forced to identify with his struggles. Paul Dano’s character wants Mary Elizabeth Winstead to be in love with him and to have Daniel Radcliffe as his best friend. It doesn’t matter if one is married and the other is dead. In that, there’s a difference between sad and pathetic.

Being pathetic involves having a sliver of understanding that what is going on is wrong. Sadness takes on new dimensions, as Paul Dano is lost in his life going straight over the cliff. Still, the imagined antics on the island were pretty amazing! But, you never know how much was imagined. Here’s a hint: corpses don’t talk or come with Kung Fu chopping action! After watching the movie and seeing Dano’s journey with his Swiss Army Man…it doesn’t matter.

The push to move past realism and just accept humanity at a base level is this film’s greatest gift. I didn’t judge this poor man for a moment during the film and I felt better for it. I don’t want to pity or besmirch anyone in these conditions. Fantasy elements can help to distract the mind’s nature to classify. I wouldn’t say that seeing more films like this would help. Especially since I doubt the ability of other filmmakers to walk this high-wire act. Check it out, while you can. “Swiss Army Man” is one of the best of 2016.


  • 1hr 35 mins
  • A24/Lionsgate
  • R


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