Australia | 97 MINUTES | English |
THE ILLUSTRATED FAMILY DOCTOR
What holds us together when our bodies fall apart? The debut feature from Australian Film Institute Award winner Stenders is a black comedy about Gary Kelp (Samuel Johnson), a miserable wretch stuck in a dead-end job with a perpetually hangdog face that only grows more haggard as his physical condition deteriorates over the course of the film. Gary works for a publishing concern called Info Digest (apparently loosely based on Reader's Digest, where the director once toiled). Shortly after the death of his father and the harvesting of his organs, he's assigned to edit an illustrated medical encyclopedia called The Illustrated Family Doctor-the kind of tome that's filled with grisly color photos of all manner of ailments and bodily injuries. As he delves into the book, Gary begins to exhibit many of the symptoms it illustrates: unsightly rash, bloodshot eyes, and mysterious lethargy. What's at the root of all this won't be uncovered until later, but this is a film that's more about mood and atmosphere than plot devices. Straddling the line between nightmare and reality, the film vividly depicts Gary's cramped, stifling existence-which includes an uncaring girlfriend, bizarre co-workers, and some unfortunate encounters in bars. The film's tone is bleakly humorous, as the passive protagonist gropes blindly for an organizing principle that can bring a sense of order to his increasingly entropic world. At the end, he finds one-or does he? Like everything else in this film, the question hangs, helpless prey to the uncertainty and contingency to which all flesh is heir.