Friday, November 17, 2006

SPECIAL - deeply sad lo-fi drama

SPECIAL is a fantastic little lo-fi drama that deserves far more attention than it's getting. It's a relatively short, low budget film with a simple premise. A not unhappy parking warden called Les lives a not unsatisfying life, reading comics, hanging out with friends, looking longingly at the pretty check-out girl at the grocery store. He's a bit of a patsy but he's also a nice guy. He volunteers as a tester for a new pharmaceutical anti-depressant called Special. Special is meant to act as an inhibitor of self-doubt but Les experiences side effects - he thinks he has super-powers. Of course, he is being delusional and his doctor and friends try to help him. At this stage the movie seems sweet and rather fun. But as Les' mental illness develops it becomes increasingly uncomfortable viewing. I felt desperately sorry for Les and started to rather resent the beating that the writer-directors were dishing out to him.

The success of the movie lies in its realistic shooting style that lends credence to a rather ludicrous plot and the touching central performance of Michael Rapaport. He's one of those Hollywood character actors whose face you recognise but whose name you might not know and it's great to see him get a chance to show his acting metal. I can honestly say that SPECIAL is one of the more memorable, sweet, sad and interesting films I have seen this year. And I know I'm preaching against the choir - and against all expectations - but I enjoyed it far more than this week's blockbuster offering.....

SPECIAL is on release in the UK.

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