The second film written and directed by Richard Ayoade (probably best known for playing Moss in ‘The IT Crowd’) and starring Jesse Eisenberg and Mia Wasikowska in the central roles with many of the cast from his previous film, the wonderful ‘Submarine’ (10), appearing in support. The story is an adaptation of the novella of the same name by Dostoyevsky, first published in 1846, concerning the appearance one day of a man’s exact physical double, here at his place of work, who embodies everything he isn’t – the double is confident, the double is admired, the double is brassy to the point of being criminally indulgent and offensive but people love him for it, and so on.
It’s great to see a new filmmaker experimenting with their own ideas, as is the case here, with plenty of room for personal interpretation opening open as we see the double zero in on the original character’s love interest. Is this imposter what he would become if he were to drastically change his personality to become more of a traditional alpha male? Would such an attempted change result in an almost schizophrenic interim period, or perhaps even a corruptive downward spiral?
Shot within a fairly constrictive local environment of workplace/tower block/diner and with consistent dark hues of yellow and green, the piece has the vibrant ambivalence of feeling both clinical and accessible – largely sold to us by terrific acting from Eisenberg himself, no mean feat when we consider to pull it off he had to do each take twice and continually match the timing with his invisible counterpart to perfection.
Unfortunately, experimenting too wildly can easily go awry, and here Ayoade has admitted that he struggled the most with the ending, which alas comes across onscreen as something which had up until then been interesting and thought provoking descends into a series of fairly nonsensical events and it ends up just being too whimsical and loose. Asides from the final furlong, it shows a lot of promise for the fledgling writer/director though, and it should still prove fairly interesting if you’re looking for something a little bit different.