Friday, 15 February 2013

Shades of madness: "Ollie Kepler's Expanding Purple World"

Ollie Kepler's Expanding Purple World serves as an elaborately quirky title for what's essentially a well-meaning passion project, attempting to do something worthwhile and watchable on the subject of male mental illness. The still somewhat underemployed Edward Hogg - think an affordable, less skeezy Fassbender - plays the eponymous Kepler, an astrophysics nut whose life takes a precipitous downturn upon the sudden death of his fiancee (Jodie Whittaker); soon he's hearing voices, making dark prognostications about the universe, painting his apartment an obsessive shade of purple, and giving lengthy thought to the matter of removing the microchip he believes has been implanted in his cerebral cortex.

There's a reason Viv Fongenie's film is only emerging a couple of years on from its production, via a distributor you've never heard of: it's almost entirely anti-commercial. With none of the emollient jokes of a Silver Linings Playbook, we're left to take a long, hard look at one man cracking up, and hoping someone comes along to place a hand on his shoulder before he goes too far. Yet unlike the bulk of Brit poverty-row fare, it's at least about something, and fairly accurate with it: Fongenie's scenes nail the variably embarrassed and baffled reactions of Ollie's colleagues to his condition, and those comforting tics (eating muesli for breakfast, dinner and tea) by which the protagonist hopes to regain control over his world.

Hogg, doing the thesp equivalent of pro bono work, turns in another laudably committed performance, taking the case notes left out for him in this script and mapping an entire headspace for Ollie to retreat to, and there's good support - in every sense - from Andrew Knott as the best friend trying to juggle his own stresses and strains with looking out for his pal. Reviewing it amid a round-up of the week's more pressing, money-minded releases requires a degree of sensitivity, and a belief in movie string theory: though it'll be gone from cinemas in a matter of mere days, you can imagine it having another, considerably more rewarding life in care homes and therapy sessions.

Ollie Kepler's Expanding Purple World opens in selected cinemas from Monday. 

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