Ollie Kepler's Expanding Purple World


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Ollie Kepler's Expanding Purple World
"That it comes so close to being fair, to being true, is to its credit."

This is a touching if sometimes uncomfortable portrait of mental illness, weakened by a script that at times feels didactic, but lifted by a number of strong performances. Ollie is a web designer, but his interests are a little more outwith the ordinary - he has a fondness for astrophysics and its intersections with quantum physics. That's at least part of the expansion, and the world. The purple, though, comes from Noreen, his girlfriend - she has been nagging him to repaint the kitchen.

Things change when Noreen dies. When she's there, Jodie Whittaker is very good. It's a small, subtle, performance - we have to believe in her and Ollie, and we do. Also seen in The Kid at this year's EIFF, she may be more familiar to viewers from her work in the St. Trinian's series or costume drama in the form of Cranford and Tess of the D'Urbervilles. Though vital, her role is an adjunct to that of Edward Hogg. He plays Olly, and between this, his role in Bunny And The Bull, and his turn as Jesco White in White Lightnin', he's possibly in danger of falling in to a rut - three affecting turns involving mental illness on the trot begin to feel like more than a coincidence.

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Of course, coincidence, and things around it, are vital to the nature of Ollie's illness. Even if it weren't literally written on screen at one point, this would be fairly obvious as a schizophrenic break. That it's a little overblown in places is perhaps expectable; cinematic depictions of mental illness aren't always balanced, but this film tries. That it comes so close to being fair, to being true, is to its credit. From the reaction of his employers "your attitude is damaging morale" to its opening in media res - "maybe I was always strange" it attempts, and largely succeeds, to paint an accurate portrait of the course of someone's illness - here that person is Ollie.

He's socially isolated, living with Noreen. His friend Tom (played by Where The Heart Is veteran Andrew Knott) is moving North to another job, and their friend Jackie visits when the bus allows. Cathy Tyson brings a good mix of concern to her role, seperated from Ollie and Noreen by circumstance but wanting to be as supportive as she can be. Her role, as with all the others is helped by elements of Viv Fongenie's script - apart from one, admittedly deliberately, clumsy line from a medical professional, it rarely rings anything other than true.

Truth, of course, is subjective: delving into string theory; with sequences reversed; auditory hallucinations; and on occasion Olly's face and staring eyes in front of an animated starfield, delivering lectures on esoteric topics from theoretical physics. That's before we get to the matter of the microchip, and the cheese, and painting behind the fridge.

This is a human, humane, portrait of someone with mental illness. Ollie's slide into unhealth isn't checked, insofar as anyone could recognise it. From the audience's perspective, it's clear enough, possibly even too clear - while the course of events is somewhat unexpected, in places Ollie Kepler's story is somewhat pedestrian. It's visually distinctive, well-directed, colourful, well-acted too, but for a film that seeks to travel the reaches of the mind and the universe, it's sadly not that imaginative.

Reviewed on: 22 Jun 2010
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A man with a passion for astrophysics experiences a schizophrenic break after suffering a bereavement.
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Director: Viv Fongenie

Writer: Viv Fongenie

Starring: Edward Hogg, Andrew Knott, Jodie Whittaker, Cathy Tyson, Simon Paris

Year: 2010

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: UK

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