The Unseen film review – Fantasia 2016

The Invisible Man gets a gritty family drama spin in The Unseen

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Invisibility is nothing but a curse in writer-director Geoff Redknap’s strong debut, which made its debut at Fantasia Film Festival, and which uses its sci-fi premise to spin a grimly effective story of inherited guilt and broken families.

Bob Langmore (Rectify’s Aden Young) is living in self-imposed lonely exile, but he’s convinced to visit the family he left behind when his ex-wife Darlene (Camille Sullivan) asks for his help with his daughter Eva (Julia Sarah Stone).

But Bob’s got a secret: he’s slowly disappearing, and there’s a chance that Eva may be suffering from the same condition. When she goes missing, Bob will need to risk everything to find his daughter.

Redknap is a veteran make-up effects artist, having worked on genre favourites like The Cabin In The Woods, The X-Files and Fringe, but it’s worth noting how impressive the film’s depiction of Bob’s condition is. The Unseen treats his invisibility as a hereditary illness, with our main character frequently hunched over, patching himself up in gas station bathrooms, and doing his best not to let his condition show. When the bandages come off, it’s a powerful shock.

But what’s equally impressive is the film’s commitment to the family drama at its centre, and the strong performances from Young and Stone as the father and daughter who are each struggling with their own secrets. Young’s excellent central performance gives the film its anchor, conveying the taciturn character’s emotions through his body language, whether that’s awkwardly shuffling through a conversation with his daughter, or hulking over someone who’s withholding information. The missing girl sub-plot is strong, but the ticking clock element of his illness is what really keeps us invested. Will he have enough time to do what needs to be done, and what happens when that time runs out?

The leisurely pace may try the patience of some viewers, but Redknap shows a knack for world building. Small town crooks play with high stakes, local doctors offer glimpses of hope, and there’s obviously a creepy hospital to break into. Although it is slightly overlong at close to two hours, there’s a confidence here that is supported by the work of everyone involved, from the cast (Ben Cotton’s almost reasonable dealer is a standout, as is Stone) to cinematographer Stephen Maier.

So, The Unseen may take its time, but it’s definitely worth it. It delivers a new approach to a classic story with an unexpected emotional impact that lingers, and it is well worth seeking out.

The Unseen is currently playing at Fantasia Film Festival, find more information here.