Run time: 1 hr 38 mins
Plot Synopsis: Esser (Hill) is a broken man, searching for his wayward son amongst the rough streets of London’s homeless. Milo (Riley) is a heartbroken thirty-something desperately trying to find a way back to the purity of first love. Emilia (Green) is a beautiful art student, her suicidal art projects becoming increasingly more complex and deadly. Preest (Phillippe) is a masked vigilante detective, searching for his nemesis on the streets of Meanwhile City; a monolithic fantasy metropolis ruthlessly governed by faith and religious fervour. Esser, Milo, Emilia, Preest – a group of people who couldn’t be further apart. Their individual worlds are set for a cataclysmic collision. In an explosive finale, the path of a single bullet will decide the fate of our four lost souls…
A little while back, I wrote a small post about a very intriguing trailer I found for a movie I had never heard of, Franklyn. At the time, I was very excited about the film. The trailer I had seen, and the descriptions I had read, lead me to believe that the movie was going to be a very exciting watch. But, somewhere along the line, I got busy and completely forgot about the film. Until now. Walking through the aisles of my local independent video store, I caught a brief glimpse of the creepy mask that drew my attention to the film in the first place, and all that excitement came rushing right back to me. In case you missed my first post about Franklyn, I wrote that it was described as a sci-fi neo-noir thriller. The trailer had a V for Vendetta meets Watchmen vibe for me, and I was very anxious to check it out and see if everything I had read and everything I had initially thought about the film were true. As it turns out, Franklyn was not what I expected it to be, but it was still a very interesting and twisted sci-fi tale that I would recommend to fans of darker and more complex science fiction films or television. It was hard to follow at times, but it held my interest throughout, and I’m glad I picked this one up.
Franklyn was a film that bounced back and forth between different “worlds” in different times, weaving together a story about 4 individuals that were connected to each other in ways that they would never have known. As the film progresses, you are taken back and forth between the very different worlds, and if you aren’t paying attention, you could miss that transition and become very confused. In truth, the less you know about this story, the better, as the compelling story is what will keep you hooked into this very strange movie. It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. My previous statement, a mix between V and Watchmen, proved to be completely untrue. In fact, it’s hard to classify this movie. It’s not exactly an action movie, though it does have action. It’s not exactly a science fiction film, as sci-fi plays an integral yet very small role in the film. There is a “hero,” though not a traditional hero that one would come to expect, so you can’t call it a hero film either. There are very strong elements of drama, but not enough to call it a drama. It’s… different, but in a very good way. With all the remakes and re-imaginings, and sequels galore, it’s nice to see a movie that’s taking chances and trying to be something unique.
This movie was clever – presenting the stories to you and only connecting them in the end and in such a manner as to make it hard to guess before hand. Though it is a slow starter, the pace picks up and really hooks you in about 40 minutes into the film. I’m glad I sat through that slow spell. There were many points that could’ve been fleshed out more, and more still that could’ve been cut completely from the film. It’s hard not to think about the missed potential here. But that’s not to say that the film itself isn’t enjoyable, just that it was clear that Franklyn could’ve been so much more. I ask that you cast aside your expectations for the film and have patience. If you do, you’ll be treated to a unique film experience. That’s what I love about independent films; you can go out on a limb and try new things that can’t and won’t be tried in big budget Hollywood films. Sometimes they hit, and other times they miss, but you have to appreciate the attempt and the originality.
The film scores big points from me in the acting department. Ryan Phillipe was touted as the “star” of the film, likely because he had the largest name draw in the film, but he was NOT the star of Franklyn. The true star was Eva Green, as she shined in a very difficult role. I was thoroughly impressed by her performance, and I will be looking for more of her films in the future. I was in awe of her as she played the off kilter Emilia. This character was one of the highlights of the film, and I haven’t seen many characters in modern Hollywood films that are so deep and thought provoking. The character was deep – she had the beauty and the brains, and plenty of crazy. I never truly understood all of the character’s motivations, but I was nonetheless intrigued. She had many flaws, yet never came across as too crazy to connect with. The rest of the cast turned in rock solid performances, which really helped to keep this movie from turning into another failed attempt at originality. Ryan Phillipe, who was the film’s “star” and who played the character that most thought would be the “hero” of the film, did a fine job in his role. The faults of the character were his fault, but more the fault of the writer and perhaps more importantly, the expectations everyone had for him. He wasn’t a masked vigilante like Batman or Rorschach, though he was certainly made to look that way in the trailer and in all the posts I had read about the film before seeing it. Again, this is not a hero film!
This film was also visually stunning. The stark contrast of modern London and the dark, neo-noir look of the monolithic fantasy metropolis was amazing. It was all very well done, with a very convincing CGI for the fantasy world combined with almost an indie sense of the intimate and human in the alternate world closer to our own. The style in which this film was made helps it to stand out, visually, from most major Hollywood releases. It was a nice twist, and was every bit a part of the story as the characters who lived there. As it constantly switches between the two settings, to both dramatic effect and to keep the film moving at a solid pace that should have you guessing at the link between all the characters and how the alternate reality of Meanwhile city ties in with them. Meanwhile City itself is a stunning and darkly captivating location opposing the modern London setting of half the film, and it provides the visual cement to the films concepts. These are some of the most inventive designs I’ve seen in sets and costumes for a long while. A Gothic vision of skyscrapers and futuristic landscapes with inspiration from cathedrals and ancient architecture. Very cool.
Franklyn follows no “formula” and does not “play by the rules” so to speak. This film was, in every way, an attempt to be very different from anything that has come before it. There is NO exposition – nothing is explained. Be intelligent enough to work it out or not. There are puzzle elements which will have you going back again and again, attempting to divine the significance of an architectural moulding or a tattoo. Not only is it fun and enjoyable but it is intelligent, existential and thought-provoking. Definitely not the stuff you’d expect to find in a popular, money making film adventure. This is not that type of film, and it clearly was not intended to even be considered to be. This will likely go down as a cult, indie type film that appeals to the deep thinkers in the movie loving community. It challenges you to use your brain to figure certain things out for yourself, without keeping so much from the audience as to make it frustrating. It is a unique and thought provoking film that will likely garner negative reviews from certain types of viewers, simply because they do not understand, or want to understand, what Franklyn is trying to accomplish.
I understand it’s hard to convince someone to see a film if I can’t explain much of the story, so I understand how some of you are thinking to yourelves “I still don’t feel compelled to watch this movie.” It’s not a film for everyone. Franklyn challenges the viewer to use their brain. It won’t answer all the questions for you, and while some may be frustrated by that, I certainly was not. For those familiar with films like Donnie Darko, the ideas driving the film may seem to be done and dusted but I’d beg to differ. The fresh approach to the concepts, in addition to its stunning execution make Franklyn worthy of anyone looking to engage their thoughts in concepts regarding reality and perception. It is a very intellectual movie, using sci-fi and fantasy to portray an internal state of mind. Strong acting and an imaginitave script help this movie overcome it’s shortcomings and failure to capitalize on all it’s potential. If you’ve read any past reviews of the film, or heard anyone anywhere comparing Franklyn to another movie, please disregard them. This movie shouldn’t really be compared to anything. It is an original, albeit odd, concept. I encourage the thinkers out there to give this film a shot. Take a chance on this attempt to create something that doesn’t fit in the boundries of any genre, and truly tries to think outside of the box. While not perfect, Franklyn is definitely worthy of your time and your thoughts.