Fried Barry

****1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Fried Barry
"Achieves remarkable poignancy for something so irreverent." | Photo: Courtesy of Fantasia

"That's why I like you, Barry," says the man in the pub when Barry is still Barry. "You don't talk much, but you're a good listener."

Listening might be the only thing Barry is good for. He's a shitty husband, an uncaring father, a terror to those who owe him money, an all-round nasty piece of work. But the creature who comes to inhabit Barry, to wear him like a spacesuit, well, it's something else entirely.

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Loosely based on Ryan Kruger's 2017 short, which also starred Gary Green as the troubled title character, Fried Barry is an alien invasion film with a difference. Just one man is invaded - we don't know for what purpose - and the real focus is on the alienness of the Earth. The effect is somewhat like The Man Who Fell To Earth might have been had its hero landed in one of the scummier areas of Cape Town with no money, having done no research and made no plan. Having sucked Barry up into its spaceship and scanned him in a vivid psychedelic sequence, the alien, still not a hundred percent sure how to make his body work, takes it on a joy ride through the city, learning all it can about humanity en route.

Prior to making this film, Kruger enjoyed an incredibly prolific 10 year career in short films and it shows. He's a master of the tightly structured vignette, and with Stephen Du Plessis' brilliant editing to bring it all together, the result is something special. Green is a wonderful lead, completely blank faced during the early stages of the alien's journey, gradually adopting some aspects of human expression. His physical acting is superb as the alien adapts to different situations, from simple walking to drugged-up dancing and, inevitably, sex.

There are a lot of drugs of many different kinds, and likewise with the sex, South Africa wearing its Rainbow Nation credentials on its sleeve, though queer characters do tend to meet with unfortunate ends (then again, so do quite a few others). Despite being penniless and not knowing how to speak (though it gradually picks up a few words), the alien has a wild time, its very strangeness encouraging people to indulge it as if it were an exotic pet. Naturally it also meets with hostility from some quarters, but this too seems to provide useful lessons. There are shades of Under The Skin as, over time, it begins to identify with the humans around it and intervene in their lives with more than just its own well-being in mind.

With vibrant colours, a pleasingly blunt take on urban life and a rich vein of humour, Fried Barry is a natural fit for Fantasia 2020 and engaging throughout. It achieves remarkable poignancy for something so irreverent, and it's great to see Cape Town celebrated for what it is rather than what the tourist board might prefer it to be. Kruger doesn't shy away from the ugly side of things and there are plenty of unpleasant characters, but there's also respect for the simple pleasures that can light up the meanest of lives. Exuberantly paced, this is a film you won't easily forget.

Reviewed on: 21 Aug 2020
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Fried Barry packshot
Barry is a drug-addled, abusive bastard who - after yet another bender - is abducted by aliens. Barry takes a backseat as an alien visitor assumes control of his body and takes it for a joyride through Cape Town.

Director: Ryan Kruger

Writer: Ryan Kruger

Starring: Gary Green, Brett Williams, Joey Cramer, Sean Cameron Michael, Steve Wall

Year: 2020

Runtime: 99 minutes

Country: South Africa


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