Gerald McMorrow | 2008 | 98 mins | UK / France
I'm a bit late posting about my Toronto After Dark experiences this year, but one of the films that really stuck with me was Franklyn, the debut feature of UK filmmaker Gerald McMorrow, a neat little puzzle of a movie that takes place partially in the real world, and partially in the dark corners of Meanwhile City, a strange place full of religious cults, fervent believers, and a masked vigilante (Ryan Phillippe).
In present-day London a young artist (Eva Green) feuds with the wealthy mother who just doesn’t understand her, working on an intimately confessional 'art project' that involves videotaped monthly suicide attempts, which seem to be connected to her difficult and tenuous family relationships. Meanwhile, a young man (Sam Reily) tries to cope with having been left at the altar - another in what is apparently a string o failed relationships that forces him to confront his lingering feelings for a girl from his childhood. While this is going on, the masked vigilante (the lone non-believer in Meanwhile City) is on the hunt for The Individual, the leader of a malevolent religious group. As he tries to evade capture by city and hospital officials, it becomes clear that his quest is connected to the disappearance and possible death of a little girl.
It takes a long time for the three stories to begin coming together, but the journey is great fun, and the performances are all pitch perfect. My only complaint Franklyn is that the futuristic Steampunk world of Meanwhile City is so slick, stylish, painstakingly detailed and gorgeously shot that it’s a shame more of the story doesn’t take place in it. By the midway point, the edges of the fantasy world begin to slowly crumble and we're pulled into reality as the pieces of the puzzle of intersecting relationships comes into focus. Watching McMorrow reconcile the two worlds of Franklyn is rewarding, and the film fits all the disparate pieces of its story together quite seamlessly. Still, I would have been happy to watch an entire film set in the fantasy world. Once you go to the trouble of creating a universe so complete (and so beautiful) it seems a shame to let it only comprise a third of your story.