Buddy Boy

2000, Movie, R, 103 mins

Review

BUDDY BOY
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You'd have to go all the way back to ERASERHEAD to find a more hellish vision of waking-life-as-nightmare. Toss in a dose of Polanski-strength paranoia and you've got something approaching the utter weirdness of writer-director Mark Hanlon's debut feature. Each morning, devoutly Catholic Francis (Aidan Gillen) zips up his windbreaker and rides the bus to the convenience store where he works developing photos. Each night he returns home to his impossibly dingy apartment; his slovenly, alcoholic stepmother Sal (Susan Tyrell) and his favorite pastime: peeping at Gloria (Emmanuelle Seigner), the pretty French vegetarian who lives across the way. Gloria soon notices him, too, when Francis rescues her from a mugging. She doesn't mind his awkwardness, his stammer or his bad teeth, and begins pursuing him with surprising persistence. But the overall wretched squalor of his life leads Francis to suspect that God doesn't like him much. And he fears the insane visions and paranoid delusions that have begun to plague him may be the prelude to his destruction — notably the bruised little girl who keeps appearing in the photos Francis develops, and those strange parties Gloria's been having behind his back, which lead him to suspect she may not be a vegetarian after all, but a dietary deviant of another order entirely. Francis's religious obsessions run deep throughout the film, and no doubt Hanlon's interest is sincere. But his film is such a compellingly repulsive freak show it's hard to pay attention to any serious concerns. The moody lighting and suitably disgusting art direction, the exceptional performances from Gillen and Tyrell, and a third-act jaw-dropper that's rivaled only by the feverish climax of BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS will leave you too dazed to notice — or remember — much else. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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