Review: Anomalisa – Sensitive, yet brutal

Anomalisa is a remarkable achievement in cinematography. It provides a sensitive, yet brutal take on a decline into a mental breakdown through the life of writer and Customer Service Guru Michael Stone on a business trip to Cincinnati to give a conference. It follows him over one night in a hotel where he thinks life is going nowhere until he meets Lisa. Lisa, superbly voiced by Academy Award Nominee Jennifer Jason Leigh, appears to be the only girl in the world for Michael as she provides such a startling difference to the basic, and the film unfolds around their relationship as it progresses throughout the night.

It contains some fairly blunt but nonetheless effective (for want of a better word) gimmicks to really highlight the nature of Stone’s life. The most obvious of which (which I also found quite disconcerting before I realised this was the case) is that all the characters in the film, apart from Stone and Lisa are all voiced by the same actor doing the same voice, Tom Noonan. This includes the women and children. IMDb very aptly describes his role as ‘everybody else’. This is a perfect description beyond simply the role he plays as it perfectly describes the monotonous humdrum of city life surrounding Stone who feels like he is slowly sinking into a pit of despair and exhaustion.

The film is beautifully scripted with every interaction carefully thought out to every miniscule little detail. Each conversation providing an almost unbearable amount of cringe-worthy awkwardness and some incredibly subtle humour dolloped out in just the right portions to break up the somewhat heavy nature of the rest of the film. The animation is no different to the script in that there is the utmost care taken over every part of the unique aesthetic of the film. Every little glance is done for a reason which becomes startlingly clear during the film’s progression.

There are moments in the film which do feel a little forced however, and stand out as being a little heavy-handed and obtuse. And there is also some of what feels unnecessarily graphic content. Not in a way that makes you not want to watch it, but in a way that just leaves you thinking ‘was that really necessary?’

On the whole it is an incredibly delicate and sensitive film made with the utmost care for detail and some incredible vocal performances, not least of which from David Thewlis who voices Stone himself. It really is a treat and we probably won’t see anything like it for a long time to come.

Matt Bolland

Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures

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