TIFF Review: A FILM WITH ME IN IT
Though it arrived at the Toronto International Film Festival as little more than a footnote in the massive program guide, a tiny film from Ireland that nobody paid much attention to before the fact, blacker-than-black comedy A Film With Me In It may very well end up departing as one of the fest's big buzz titles, one of those left field arrivals that catches everybody off guard with it's wickedly sharp sense of humor. The brainchild of writer-actor Mark Doherty - who stars in the film as a struggling actor named, conveniently enough, Mark - it is the deliciously mordant story of a man struggling to make it through the worst day in the history of all bad days with only the help of his perpetually inebriated would-be-screenwriter friend Pearce, played to perfection by Irish comic Dylan Moran (Shaun of the Dead, Tristram Shandy, Black Books).
We begin with Mark suffering the humiliation of a casting audition that is surely destined to fail. He has only one bit part credit on his resume, that credit coming on a show so small that the director - played by real life arthouse fave Neil Jordan - has never heard of. The director's only question for the casting agent before turning his back dismissively on the actor is "Does it matter what he looks like?" Clearly this is another failure for Mark, who must carry that weight home with him - home of course being the flat that is slowly crumbling to pieces thanks to landlord neglect; the place where his girlfriend is clearly not pleased to see him; the place where he spends nights sleeping on the floor of his disabled brother David's - played by Doherty's actual brother David - bedroom; the place where he has to hide from his landlord and hope that nobody remembers he is three months behind on his rent. Mark's only allies in this world are his dog - a great, big Irish wolfhound - and his upstairs neighbor Pearce, a shambolic drunk always working on a film script that everybody knows will never actually get finished.
Life is bad for Mark but it is about to get worse. Much worse. The day from hell arrives. Mark's girlfriend leaves him. And then tragedy - horrible, absurd, and darkly hysterical tragedy - strikes. And then it strikes again. And again. And again. And Mark and Pearce, the pathetic loser and failed writer, must figure out how to respond.
A Film With Me In It is, without a doubt, the darkest comedy I have seen in a very, very long time. It is also, without a doubt, the funniest and most satisfying. Doherty plays Mark as a lovably passive everyman, a well meaning man crippled by his own weak will who can do nothing but stand and watch as this storm of absurdity rages around him. And Moran as Pearce - the man who tries to orchestrate said storm with a series of plans that would only make sense to someone who has sacrificed as many brain cells to alcohol as Pearce has - is an absolute mad genius. Pearce's introduction comes with his tear-inducing self-introduction to an Alcoholics Anonymous group and it only goes up from there. I have been saying for years that Moran needs a leading film role to properly introduce him to audiences around the globe and this is that role.
Flawlessly written and performed A Film With Me In It is the most fun I've had in a movie theater all year. Doherty and Moran are a perfect comic pairing, Doherty's script showcasing a fresh new voice. Watch for this one to turn into a major sleeper hit.