Deadpan Valentine (2005) – By Duane L. Martin

 Every so often someone will send me a film to review that totally doesn’t fit into the mold of anything I’ve seen before. Something that is just, well…different. Such was the case with Deadpan Valentine. It’s different, niteresting, well written and is a great reminder of why independent film is so much better than the narrow minded Hollywood mainstream garbage that keeps getting shoved down our throats on a constant basis.

Deadpan Valentine is about a guy who used to be a stand up comedian. Depression and loneliness got the better of him and he just stopped caring about the world, choosing instead to just sit in his room and avoid everyone as much as possible. His flat mate is a dorky wanna-be actor with delusions of grandeur. He also looks very much like a young John Cleese, which was something I couldn’t stop thinking about once I noticed it. Despite his arrogance and lack of talent, he does manage to get involved in relationships with various women. One of these women had an admirer, and that’s where the story really gets interesting. The movie however doesn’t focus so much on the flatmate as it does our depressed comedian and his problems relating to his flat mate’s promiscuity. I don’t want to get into the story any more here because there are some surprises and to go into it more would spoil it for you.

This movie had exactly two problems, which I’ll cover here before I get to the multitude of things that were right about it. The first problem was the sound. I had to turn it WAY up to hear all the dialogue. The levels could have possibly been adjusted in post, or preferably could have been recorded better as the film was being made. Still, once it was turned up, I was able to hear everything ok. I wish more independent films would take the time to include subtitles. They really help out a lot in quiet situations. The second problem was that I thought the ending was weak and somewhat depressing. I just would have liked to have seen it turn out a little differently as a personal preference, but I also didn’t feel that it was as good of a wrap up to the story as they could have had. It almost seemed like kind of an afterthought the way it was played out. They actually could have ended the movie without that whole scene and it would have been fine.

Now, for what was right about this movie. Basically…everything else. The acting was about the best I’ve ever seen in an independent film. Everyone without exception did a brilliant and highly professional job and made all the characters believable. Mark Parsons (Jamie) and Eli Silverman (Bruce) were simply brilliant in their interactions with each other. Johnathan Rhodes (Scott) was also really great as the arrogant flat-mate who thought he was the most brilliant actor in the world and everyone who thought otherwise just didn’t know what they were talking about. If there is any way that anyone in this film could have played their roles better, I can’t think of it.

On a technical level, other than the sound, everything else was excellent. The shots were all nicely set up, the lighting was good, the editing was tight, and everything just sort of fell into place. Speaking of the editing though, there is something else I’d like to mention about the pacing of this film. This film is slow. Now in 99.9% of all the other films out there, that would be a death sentence. In the case of this film however, it completely works, and if they had tried to speed up the pacing at all it would have ruined it. The slowness of how things play out is this film’s strength and it’s also what holds your attention throughout. Trust me when I say that, because I despise films with slow pacing. So if I say it works in this one and it’s actually what makes it cool, you can believe it.

The writing for this film was incredibly well done, and whereas I can usually spot "surprise" story elements long before they ever happen, I must admit that the main surprise in this movie caught me totally off guard. The dialogue was extremely well written, and although Jamie’s rant about Valentine’s Day was pretty cliche, the rest of the dialogue in the film was brilliant and witty and well played out. Speaking of witty, there are bits of comedy in this film, some of which are somewhat subtle and some of which are more overt, but all work exceedingly well within the context of the film. Nothing felt out of place or like they were trying to make something work that just wouldn’t. It all had a natural flow to it, which made it all the more enjoyable.

As I said at the beginning, this film is different. It was written, produced and directed by by British filmmaker Robin Lindsey who, judging by this film, has an extremely bright future ahead of him. This film is currently about to start appearing at various film festivals and premiers, but at the time of this writing the dates and locations haven’t been finalized yet. If you want to find out more about Deadpan Valentine, you can visit the film’s website at http://www.deadpanvalentine.com. Keep watching for this film to become available on DVD as it’s definitely worth adding to your collection.