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GRIFF THE INVISIBLE

SYNOPSIS:
Increasingly concerned by Griff's (Ryan Kwanten) eccentric behaviour, his brother Tim (Patrick Brammall) attempts to draw him back into the real world. In doing so he introduces Griff to Melody (Maeve Dermody) an equally eccentric and charming girl. Fascinated by Griff's idiosyncrasies which equal her own, Melody begins to fall for Griff. As Griff is forced to face up to realities of a mundane world, it is up to Melody to rescue him for the sake of herself, Griff and their love for each other.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
One man’s eccentric is another man’s freak and Griff the Invisible explores how such divergent perceptions feed into the human condition. The film has heart and it has whimsy (a rare commodity in Australian films) with a playful tone that doesn’t try to convince us through overt naturalism that we are seeing real life. It’s a bit like a parable, told with tongue in cheek. You buy it or you don’t. I buy it.

Griff (Kwanten) works in an office by day, where he is the shy object of fun for the office bully. But by night, he becomes his suburb’s superhero, suitably outfitted with a superhero’s wardrobe and ready to fight against the darker forces of the street.

Increasingly concerned by Griff’s eccentric behaviour, his brother Tim (Patrick Brammall) tries to persuade him to be more … well, ordinary, like everyone else. But when Tim’s shortlived new date, Melody (Dermody) meets Griff, she is instantly fascinated by Griff’s idiosyncrasies. A man after her own, quirky heart; Melody begins to fall for Griff. 

Kwanten’s Griff is a complex character hiding inside his invisible shell, his yellow raincoat a symbol of the inner eccentric wanting to get out. It’s a remarkably sensitive portrayal, going from almost childish and naive to tortured young man. Dermody is cute and convincing as his soul mate in waiting, a girl who is as much of a misfit as he is, but who recognises and accepts that this is how she must live. And so must Griff.

The opening sequence establishes how Griff’s view of the world around him dovetails into reality. This is cleverly done with the tools of performance and direction.

In a film which is built with nuance and detail, the filmmaking team (led by producer Nicole O’Donohue and crowded with female heads of departments) have delivered handsomely; Karen Johnson’s editing, Sophie Nash’s production design and the terrific, versatile music of Sep Caton, Lee Devaney and Larissa Rate all play a big role. Simon Chapman’s cinematography is also notable. 

Leon Ford’s feature debut suggests cinematic talent to spare. The apparent scale of the film is small but the underlying exploration of human nature is deep, and universal. Griff and Melody make a conscious decision about living the way they are, which is both brave and honest. We could all learn from these two, not to copy them but to emulate their courage. Ford argues here that happiness in life comes not from conformity but honesty.

Above all, though, it’s a fun film, with moments of wild abandon and some darker, more serious notes grounding the film’s theme of ‘be yourself’ – no matter what. With a lively and likeable soundtrack, Griff the Invisible is a curiosity but a pleasant one. Ford does what he sets out to do in giving us a new take on the importance of innocence, imagination and childhood dimensions. 

There’s probably a bit of Griff or Melody in all of us, that aspect which will respond to these characters and barrack for them as they negotiate life’s grey sidewalks. Like the games we played as children, when a grey sidewalk could easily be the battleground for the forces of good and evil, with us as the hero coming to save the situation. 

There is a romanticism to the film’s tone – in the real sense of romantic – which provides this romantic comedy with a magic sensibility, propelled along by the performances.
Published first in the Sun-Herald

Review by Louise Keller:
Griff (Ryan Kwanten) wears a black rubber suit trimmed with yellow as he protects his neighbourhood from evil; Melody (Maeve Dermody) believes in different universes as she explores theories about atoms and the space between them. Together they make sweet music - the kind that only they can hear. There's a lovely energy about this original, quirky and funny film with a sweet heart in which a nerdy misfit believes he is a superhero in his own fantasy world. Making an assured writing and directing debut, actor Leon Ford comically explores the fine line between fantasy and reality and the symphony of love that connects them.

When we first meet Griff in a dark alley, he is every inch the superhero. By contrast, at his day job as customer liaison officer, he is nerdy, timid and self-conscious, allowing the office bully (Toby Schmitz) to make fun of him. If you act normal, you become normal, Griff's boss (David Webb) suggests, but Griff is happy with his lot, secure at his own apartment and surrounded by comic books and superheroes.

Then we meet clumsy Melody, banging her head against the wall in the hope the spaces between the atoms will separate enough for her to pass through it. We can see at a glance that the pairing of Melody and Griff's pragmatic older brother Tony (Patrick Brammall) is not a match made in heaven, much to the chagrin of Melody's parents (Heather Mitchell and Marshall Napier). Then the fun begins. Griff is experimenting on how to become invisible (with lemons and bi-carb in the bathtub) when Melody comes by.

There are some delicious moments in this fantasy-cum-comedy-cum-love story as Griff and Melody discover they share the same rhythm and beat and see the world from same bubble. All the cast is good and Kwanten and Dermody ground the film with superb, nuanced performances while Ford navigates the story through harsh reality and seductive fantasy in an appealing way. It's all about the tone, and Ford gets that invisible element that strings it all together just right.



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

GRIFF THE INVISIBLE (M)
(Aust, 2011)

CAST: Ryan Kwanten, Maeve Dermody, Kelly Paterniti, Marshall Napier, Heather Mitchell, Toby Schmitz, David Webb

PRODUCER: Nicole O'Donohue

DIRECTOR: Leon Ford

SCRIPT: Leon Ford

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Simon Chapman

EDITOR: Karen Johnson

MUSIC: Sep Caton, Lee Devaney, Larissa Rate

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Sophie Nash

RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Transmission

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 17, 2011







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