The Man in the Hat

Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5

The Man in the Hat
dir-scr John Paul Davidson, Stephen Warbeck
prd Daniel-Konrad Cooper, Dominic Dromgoole
with Ciaran Hinds, Stephen Dillane, Maiwenn, Claire Tran, Brigitte Rouan, Sasha Hails, Muna Otaru, Joseph Marcell, Amit Shah, Zoe Bruneau, Xavier Laurent, Jeremy Herrin, Sam Cox, Didier Bourguignon
release UK 18.Sep.20
20/UK 1h35

maiwenn otaru shah

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dillane and hinds
With its whimsical tone and lovely French scenery, this warm British comedy pushes all the right buttons. Mostly wordless scenes and unnamed characters give the film a Mr Bean sensibility. The slapstick isn't as goofy, but it's augmented by a gently jaunty score by composer Stephen Warbeck, who also makes his directing debut working with veteran documentarian John Paul Davidson. There isn't much to it, but it's utterly charming.
After witnessing something nefarious, a hat-wearing man (Hinds) goes on the run across France in his tiny Fiat, pursued by five scary goons in a Citroen. Along the road he meets locals including a perpetually damp man (Dillane), a pair of helpful farmers (Cox and Bourguignon) and an old romantic (Marcell). He also repeatedly spots a woman (Maiwenn) in red on a bicycle. A treasured photo of another woman hints that this man is also on a quest to find a lost love. But perhaps he's just in need of a little direction in life.
The few instances of dialog involve overheard monologs as women (including Tran in a cafe and Rouan as a hotelier) recount elaborate stories that feed into the eponymous protagonist's meandering journey. Scenes are packed with unexpected touches that are witty and sometimes surreal, with sudden outbursts of song at a dinner table, inside his car or in a town square as a food fight breaks out. There's also a flirtatious young couple (Shah and Bruneau) randomly sizing everything up with a tape measure.

Hinds barely utters a single word, communicating with gestures and noises like a tourist who doesn't speak the local language. His expressive face makes it very clear what he's feeling, whether it's fear, gratitude or curiosity. He's clearly a man who loves life and makes the most of it on his own terms. And the people he encounters are played with earthy good humour and open-handed feelings, each bringing his or her own chaos into this man's odyssey. Several of them reappear at various points, developing their own running gags.

There is a lightly melancholic undercurrent running through this film, offering a slight sense of thematic depth in this man's yearning for those who are no longer in his life. A glimpse of a woodland production of A Midsummer Night's Dream provides some playful context. As does a priest (Herrin) determined to shed his robes. Otherwise, it's a series of skilfully staged set-pieces that make us smile and evoke various emotions along the road.

cert 12 themes, innuendo, violence 11.Sep.20

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