There is something breath-taking about an animated film that imitates real life so well. Anomalisa is subtle, surreal and full of humanity. Directors Duke Johnson and Charlie Kauffman take stop animation to another level with this delicately made love story and drama that fuels our human proclivity for attaching emotions to inanimate objects.
However, despite the animated package in which this film is presented, this is just for adults. The main character is able to emanate what feels like a million facial expressions to communicate pain, loss, rejection, joy and the like, to an unsuspecting audience. The comedy is short and sharp without overtaking the heavily depressed but often hopeful feeling of the script, delivered perfectly by the only three actors in the film; Jennifer Jason Leigh, David Thewlis and Tom Noonan.
And the story unfolds like any other story involving raw human emotion, except that we are watching puppet-like characters mimic more than just our physical movements. They mimic our moods, the way we pause and hesitate with anxiety, and even the way that we make love.
At times Anomalisa pushes the boundaries of what we know as reality, with a luxury that perhaps wouldn’t have been afforded with real actors; at least not to as much success and even pace. However, the film always seems to return to what is undeniable about human behaviour; the desire to love and also to be loved.
The message is simple and for a while it appears as if little is happening; David Thewlis as Michael Stone lighting a cigarette in his hotel room. Or Michael having a mundane conversation with a cab driver on the way from the airport, getting visibly agitated at the cab driver pressuring him to visit the local zoo. Yet the mood and atmosphere of the film takes its time to reach its audience; simply because like any good story, you’re pulled into the journey of the main character, feeling what he feels and experiencing awkward moments with him in what feels like real time.
This a film for the faint of heart and strong-willed alike, but if nothing else, it is one to watch for the mere art form of the animation alone.