Buddy Boy, written and directed by first-time filmmaker Mark Hanlon, takes place in an alternate universe where attractive, seemingly-well adjusted women find stuttering,
cripplingly introverted men that live with their mothers and have no friends attractive. Such is the case when Francis (Aidan Gillen, Shanghai Knights), a voyeur who until now has satisfied his curiosity about other people's lives with his job as a drug store photo developer, discovers that he can see into the apartment of Gloria (Emmanuelle Seigner, The Ninth Gate), a woman for whom the word "curtains" appears to have no meaning. After several nights of watching Gloria, usually in a state of undress, Francis has a chance encounter with her on the street, and she invites him to have dinner with her in her apartment. Horrified at the thought of real human interaction, he initially refuses her offer, but after a little persistence on her part, the two begin a strange and awkward relationship.
Francis is unable to stop himself from secretly watching Gloria at night, though, despite his guilt as a devout Catholic. When he spies her eating a large hunk of red meat for a midnight snack – she's a vegan, by the way – he begins to suspect that all is not as it seems. A few nights later, he sees her with a strange man in her apartment who mysteriously never makes it to her bedroom... or out her front door. After several nights of this, Francis becomes suspicious that his girlfriend is a cannibal, and sets out to prove it. Increasingly agitated and paranoid, he seems to be losing his grip on reality, and storming into what he's convinced is a cannibal dinner party and brandishing a butcher knife at her guests doesn't help matters. Gloria, in love with Francis because the script says she is supposed to be, naturally overlooks this apparent psychotic episode, but strangely, no one at the party bothers to call the police, either.
There are other characters in the movie, of course. Francis's alcoholic, invalid mother Sal (Susan Tyrell, who voraciously consumes the entire set) seems to invite the affection of Vic (Mark Boone Junior), a plumber who enjoys her company so much that he has been working on the leaky water pipe in their bathroom for the last six weeks. There are secrets surrounding her, as well, but they're irrelevant, and only
seem to add to the weirdness for the sake of adding weirdness; in fact, both characters ultimately add little to the story. There's
also a lot of time spent on a subplot involving a missing little girl that Francis recognizes in photos that he develops, but it goes nowhere.
Despite its lack of focus, however, Buddy Boy hits enough of the right notes to make me wish this was the third or fourth film Hanlon had done, instead of the first. It's an intensely ugly movie – whether you're talking about the characters, the world itself, or the plot – but at its heart, it's a film about the ugliness of human nature, and the masks we use to hide it, whether they be religion or veganism. "I'm not so sure anyone who calls themselves a vegetarian really knows how they feel," Francis says to Gloria at one point. "Deep down I think they're the most carnivorous of us all. They just deny it harder."
The movie is in 16:9 and looks pretty good, with no real aliasing or pixelation to speak of. Some scenes can get pretty dark, though, and in some cases it's difficult to distinguish grays from blacks.
Not only does the film feature Dolby Digital 5.1, but there's a DTS track, as well. I couldn't tell the difference; about the only time that the speakers get a workout in the film are when Francis is at work, where his coworker blasts his death metal. There's also a Dolby 2.0 stereo option, and Spanish subtitles are available.
In addition, director Mark Hanlon recorded a commentary track for the disc. It's dull but informative on a technical basis, although there's a lot of dead space after the first few minutes. Hanlon just sort of stops talking at the end, which is weird.
A four-minute interview with the director is probably the most interesting of the special features, as Hanlon discusses the look of the film, the inspiration for the character of Francis, and how pleased he is that Roman Polanski likes his movie.
An 11-minute behind the scenes set construction featurette is next. A hand-held camera just sort of
wanders around backstage as the set is put up, sans dialogue or narration of any kind. If it sounds dull, it is.
Two storyboarded scenes are also included. The content's not funny – one of them includes an attempted rape – but the drawings are hilarious. I don't mean to pick on Hanlon, but they look like something I might have brought home in second grade. If I were a severely disturbed seven-year-old, I mean.
There's also a trailer, some production stills, a final draft script, an article from Preview Magazine, and, for good measure, a collection of reviews that helpfully tell you why you should think this film is brilliant.
Buddy Boy is the type of movie that you have caffeine-fueled conversation about after watching, and are almost compelled to recommend to others just to get their take on it. It's stylish and surreal, and Hanlon shows a lot of directorial promise in his feature film debut. Unfortunately, it also suffers from some frustrating story issues that take away from its rewatchability – a shame, as this would be an easy recommendation otherwise. Rent it.