In an eccentric hallucination, Timothy Spall (Mr. Turner) exhausts all of his theatrical abilities by playing not only the lead (Stanley) – a man in solitary confinement, adamant he doesn’t deserve to be there – but every hallucinated character that aims to help him better understand the reasons for his imprisonment. Choppy editing and student-like special effects seem to downgrade what had the potential of becoming a very interesting piece – along with a cringe-worthy imitation of an Indian accent.
Whilst in solitary confinement Stanley is entertained by his television; in a peculiar twist of fate, the very comedic performers he watches begin to enter his world in the form of hallucinations. Their only goal? To guide Stanley in understanding the crime he committed. His only intention? To visit his daughter’s grave. While they pull and tug, we’re told of Stanley’s odd upbringing that – by his own words – is the reason he’s so weird. The film draws up to a point where the decision hangs over him on whether to return to his grey routine in prison, or back home where the eccentricity began.
Spall stretches himself to play individuals such as Max Wall, Margaret Rutherford, Max Miller and the infamous Doctor Boob, which warrants a sigh rather than applause due to the mock accent.
From the start, it’s revealed that the director Stephen Cookson (My Angel) had intended to edit the film in line with what one imagines the experience of a hallucination to feel like – chaotic and non-linear. However, this artistic decision seems to hinder its ability to cement the viewer in the experience it provides: it creates a sense of detachment.
Marry that with the jerky audio, alternating from dialogue coming out of a television speaker to directly Stanley: A Man of Variety suffers from a lack of polish. Unlike a film such as Bronson, which follows a uniform plot involving an individual in solitary confinement, Stanley: A Man of Variety doesn’t pack much of a punch: it’ll sit in a corner of independent cinema, collecting dust and soon forgotten due to its disorder and lack of clear direction.
Dir: Stephen Cookson
Scr: Stephen Cookson, Timothy Spall & Falcon Fields
Prd: Leighton Lloyd, Norman Merry & Neil Ouzman
Cast: Timothy Spall
DOP: Ismael Issa
Music: David Lord & Tim Wheater
Runtime: 1h 23min
Stanley: A Man of Variety will be available on DVD and digital download from 29th March