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A Film Diary

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Watched: 16 November

Bryan Cranston plays a successful lawyer named Howard Wakefield – married, two kids, big house in the commuter belt, etc – who has a nervous breakdown and decides one day to go missing (in actual fact he just hides in the attic above his garage and spies on his family through a window). The plot doesn’t really hold up to much scrutiny – honestly, why doesn’t anyone go looking for him in the attic, or notice him coming and going, or recognise him when he wanders around the local town? – but the film is on surer footing when we see flashbacks that reveal aspects of Wakefield’s personality (pre-breakdown) and events that contributed to his current state. We get to hear Howard’s inner monologues, but despite the serious nature of mental health issues this is neither a heartfelt nor a serious study of a man who has gone past some sort of breaking point; in fact, Cranston’s delivery is designed to create more of a lighter, comic, mischievous tone, and much of what he says satirises the trappings of suburban married life in a way that occasionally recalls the more acerbic moments within Sam Mendes’ American Beauty. Unfortunately the tone and the repeated invitations to laugh at this character bothered me throughout, though on another day I may have been slightly more forgiving. Terrible ending, too. (**½)

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