My Invisible Friend

My Invisible Friend

*****

Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Tomas is shy. Tomas is painfully shy. Tomas does not speak, save in voiceover, so paralysed by his shyness that he cannot ask his parents to pass the salt, nor even reach for it himself. Until, that is, he acquires an invisible friend. Andy is different. He's got a cape, for a start, and he's a dead ringer for Admiral Ackbar. Then there's his masturbation technique.

Pablo Vasquez is Tomas, Sergio Huguet is Andy, Monste Martinez is Tomas' mother, Jordi RomanĂ³s is his father, and all deliver excellent performances. As the film unfolds there are a series of revelations, but so enthusiastic is Pablo Larcuen's film that it wouldn't matter, so easy is it to be swept up in the friendship between this unlikely pair.

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There are some obvious touches, the lovingly recreated room with Eighties paraphenalia abounding, Mad Max posters and games consoles and Generation X's Dancing With Myself, but there are some subtler strokes too - the four characters each have differently coloured subtitles, blue and pink for dad and mum, Tomas' internal monologue subtitled in white, and Andy's reptilian vocoder croaking a delightful shade of green. The subtitles are necessitated by the fact that it's in Spanish, but there's no great cultural gap for the humour to fall into, indeed, much of it is universal, or at least from Star Wars.

Though at times it comes close it avoids the trap of nostalgia - despite Dinosaur Jr, Devo, Mr Roboto on the soundtrack, the Fast Times At Ridgemont High poster and one of the James Bonds with Jaws in it on the television it's striking enough that the fact that it's in the Eighties is a comforting detail rather than an element that jars. Its period authenticity isn't quite on a par with Mosquito, but it still manages not to throw us out of the moment.

Admittedly, with direct addresses to camera ("If I thought people could hear these thoughts of mine, I would throw up") our suspension of disbelief isn't too challenged - this is clearly a film, but even more clearly a hilarious one. Comedy about outsiders can often feel exploitative, there's plenty of room for misstepping between films like Napoleon Dynamite and Frontiers, or Hot Rod and Milky Way Liberation Front. The streak of sentimentality in cinema goes back to Chaplin, and this is a worthy part of that tradition. Tomas, after all, is silent, but his adventures are a little more adult than those of The Tramp.

It's entertaining throughout, with moments of both wry amusement and vocal laughter - the audience at Edinburgh's 2010 Film Festival were in hysterics at times. It's still touching, however, and despite its surrealism and fantastic edge it feels genuine. If you can see My Invisible Friend, you should. It probably won't change your life as much as it does for Tomas, but it will make you laugh.

Reviewed on: 05 Feb 2012
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Tomas is incredibly shy... perhaps an imaginary friend will help.
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Director: Pablo Larcuen

Writer: Pablo Larcuen

Starring: Sergio Huguet, Richard Kiel, Montse Martínez, Jordi Romanós, Pablo Vázquez

Year: 2010

Runtime: 15 minutes

Country: Spain

Festivals:

EIFF 2010

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