Run time: 93mins
Director: Richard Ayoade
Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Jesse Eisenberg, Wallace Shawn, James Fox, Sally Hawkins, Paddy Considine, Chris O’Dowd
Synopsis: Simon is a timid man, scratching out an isolated existence in an indifferent world. He is overlooked at work, scorned by his mother, and ignored by the woman of his dreams. He feels powerless to change any of these things. The arrival of a new co-worker, James, serves to upset the balance. James is both Simon’s exact physical double and his opposite – confident, charismatic and good with women. To Simon’s horror, James slowly starts taking over his life.
Multi-talented actor and director Richard Ayoade (Submarine, The IT Crowd) returns with an inspired adaptation of the Fyodor Dostoevsky novella. Simon (Jesse Eisenberg) is a meek, mild-mannered worker who finds himself confronted by James, a smug, arrogant doppelganger with all the charm and confidence that Simon lacks, in this darkly amusing existential comedy that descends into heart-breaking tragedy.
Jesse Eisenberg is excellent as the creepy – he spies on his dream woman, Hannah (Mia Wasikowska) at home with a telescope – and ineffectually weedy Simon. Through his artful, subtle changes of posture and facial expression, we are never in doubt as to whether we are watching Simon or James.
Set in an indeterminate time and in a strange workplace, where it isn’t clear what exactly Simon does, apart from data processing for his bullying boss Mr Papadopoulis (Wallace Shawn), Simon becomes increasingly anonymous to the extent that he can hardly get into work and is refused entry to the office dance.
Meticulously shot and lit, with echoes of the Coen Brothers, Terry Gilliam and Orson Welles’ The Trial, the entire acting ensemble – many of whom were also in Ayoade’s Submarine –deliver strong performances with Mia Wasikowska excellent as the lonely Hannah and superb cameos from James Fox as ‘The Colonel’ who owns the strange company Simon and James work for and sparkling turns from Paddy Considine and Chris O’Dowd.
A dark surreal comedy which creates tension and a ‘grand enigma’ for us as we grapple with amid the sense of unreality it creates.
Images courtesy of Studio Canal