Swiss Army Man (4 stars)

Swiss Army Man

credit: Joyce Kim

Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe star in a surprisingly sweet and surreal study of the human condition

In Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert's debut feature, a flatulent reanimated corpse named Manny (an extremely game Daniel Radcliffe) utters the profound statement, 'If my best friend hides his farts from me then what else is he hiding from me, and why does that make me feel so alone?' While it may sound like gross-out comedy, Swiss Army Man effectively examines the human condition through the story of castaway Hank (Paul Dano) who, while taking cover from the rest of the world, finds friendship with a dead man who he slowly brings back to life.

The film recalls the best and worst aspects of Michel Gondry's body of work. It's at its strongest and most rewarding when dwelling in surreal territory and showing off intricately detailed sets in montages packed full of energy. The soundtrack, by Andy Hull and Robert McDowell from Manchester Orchestra, utilises the natural surroundings of the forest through which Hank and Manny navigate loneliness, love and the meaning of life. The musicians cannily use humming, a cappella singing and bodily functions as percussion, with the two new friends sincerely marching to the beat of their own drum.

The naïve attitude towards the opposite sex occasionally becomes weary, but this is neatly addressed in the denouement and it's easy to forgive because of the sweet-natured conversations between the two men. Hank educates Manny through storytelling and reminiscences, with their back-and-forth recalling the exchanges in David Gordon Green's Prince Avalanche.

Kwan and Scheinert find beauty in the revolting, and do so in a unique and heartfelt manner. They've crafted a charming film about embracing your inner weirdness and learning to trust your instincts that extols the importance of honesty and friendship. It's a moving and often hilarious romp around the wilderness that eloquently taps into the fundamental things we do in order to survive.

Selected release from Fri 30 Sep.

Swiss Army Man

  • 4 stars
  • 2016
  • US
  • 1h 37min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Dan Kwan, Daniel Scheinert
  • Cast: Paul Dano, Daniel Radcliffe, Mary Elizabeth Winstead

Hank (Dano) is a castaway; when a dead man (Radcliffe) washes up on his beach, Hank slowly brings him back to life. Unique, heartfelt and often hilarious comedy about embracing your inner weirdness, and the importance of honesty and friendship.