J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Fantasia ’16 The Unseen

Typically, movie invisibility comes in two flavors: would be world-dominating mad scientists and girls’ locker room hijinks. However, for Bob Langmore, it is a brutal curse. Consider the difficulties of day-to-day hygiene when parts of your body are turning invisible. Langmore left his wife and daughter to spare them the partial sight of him, but he will return fully bundled when the latter goes missing in Geoff Redknap’s The Unseen (trailer here), which screens during the 2016 Fantasia International Film Festival.

Once a promising NHL rookie, Langmore now punches the clock in a dilapidated Canadian mill, where protective clothing and head gear is required at all times. He is very sick, but he hides it with his abrasive personality. He is contemplating disappearing for good and final, but first he wants to see his daughter Eva one more time. Crisby, the local coke dealer will finance his road trip if he does a bit of courier work while he is in the big city. The whole thing smells like a set-up, but what does he care?

Inconveniently, suicide or death-by-drug dealer will have to wait for Langmore when Eva disappears under strange circumstances. She happened to be trespassing in the old sanitarium where her grandfather was once a patient. The increasingly transparent Langmore can barely stand upright, but he still has a hockey player’s fighting instincts, so he duly springs into action.

Unseen has a gritty, blue-collar sensibility that you rarely find so completely free of condescension in genre films. It is also very much a film about forgiveness and understanding. The Langmore family is definitely a mess, but the relationships that emerge are surprisingly poignant. Aden Young has a Viggo Mortensen sort of thing going on, except you can see the inside of his head. Julia Sarah Stone convincingly portrays Eva’s development from resentful punk to mature adult. Camille Sullivan also adds further humanist dimensions as Darlene, possibly the most sympathetic ex-wife in the history of cinema.

Unseen is very low key and small in scope, but it is refreshing to see genre films take this less traveled road. However, former special effects specialist Redknap still shows off his craft with through the progression of Langmore’s condition. It is a worthy film cult fans should consider when it screens again this Friday (7/22), as part of Fantasia up north.

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