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Films like Only God Forgives or The Human Centipede are bizarre or off-putting, simply to be that, offering nothing else. That’s just my opinion, but movies like that can also be absolutely incredible in terms of how a story is told. You can have the most generic premise in history, but still manage to accomplish one of the most original films of the year. Mandy is absolutely for a niche audience, so if you’re someone who can watch any movie, no matter how intense, gory, insane, or downright disgusting a film is, then Mandy might impress you, as it did myself. While I’m cautioning this review and stating that the majority of average moviegoers will probably rip this film apart or not even be able to finish it, here’s why I believe Mandy is one of the better films of 2018.
The plot of this film is a spoiler in itself, so I will keep this very brief, without ruining the experience for anyone. Mandy follows a couple in Red (Nicolas Cage) and Mandy (Andrea Riseborough) as they run their shop in the woods, exploring their love together. As a religious cult is looking around them, their future is not going to be bright together. Filled with gruesome violence, some of the most unique visuals of the year, and a story that gets turned on its head, this is definitely an experience that shouldn’t be missed for hardcore film fans.
This particular film is anchored by fantastic (although haunting) performances by the members of the religious cult, but the true standout of the film is Nicolas Cage. Yes, fans of his work will get their favourite freakout moments that he’s become known for, but it really is a surprising turn for him as an actor. With one scene in particular, his performance brought me to literal tears, due to how committed to this character he was. Through all the wacky moments this character goes through, it was the subtlety in Cage’s eyes that had me invested from start to finish. Even though I felt like certain scenes were weird, just to be weird, he helped keep this bizarre film grounded in some sort of reality.
As I mentioned, this film is visually striking. Personally, I found some of the visuals to be slightly gimmicky, but the characters surrounding the film easily made up for that. By the time the second and third acts kick into gear, the bizarre visuals become sparse, which felt like a breath of fresh air. Director Panos Cosmatos clearly had a vision for this film and stuck to it from start to finish, which has to be at least admirable. That being said, the best part of this film, at least to me, was the score by Jóhann Jóhannsson. The way music is presented here is almost like it’s a character in the film. Even if I may not have been buying into a certain element throughout the first act of this film, the score was pulse-pounding and it truly blew me away. These are pieces of music that are definitely award-worthy.
In the end, Mandy is absolutely not for everyone. In fact, as I said, I can see the majority of viewers being turned off quite early, but it will work for those who are open-minded film lovers. I was riveted from start to finish, and aside from feeling like some of the visuals were weird just to be weird, everything else about this movie is terrific. It’s very hard to recommend a movie like this, but if you can get into it, the story, violence, bizarre imagery, and downright gut-wrenching moments all add up to a fantastic and insane experience. Mandy is great!