By Sarey Martin With on February 14, 2016

I went into Anomalisa with high expectations. It’s a stop motion-animated Charlie Kaufman film (Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind). It’s about Michael’s business trip to Cincinnati. He’s desperately seeking human connection, suffering hallucinations, and on the verge of a nervous breakdown. At his hotel, he seeks out a one-night stand. Every character in the film, except for the Michael, has the same facial features and is voiced by the same actor, so Michael feels he’s losing his mind (google “Fregoli delusion”). However, one of the girls he meets is special. Lisa has her own unique voice. He ends up sleeping with her and falls madly in love. There are some sweet moments of dialogue between them. Both characters feel very real and the actors voicing them give thoughtful, nuanced performances. The next morning, he perceives she’s becoming just like everyone else in his perception, and his hope fades. In the end, Michael returns home to his family and friends with no sign that his crisis is lessening. Falling to pieces, he rants to his wife, “Who even are you? Who am I? What does it even mean to be a person?” Michael’s specialization is teaching customer service skills to businesses. When he speaks on the topic, he teaches people to remember, when interacting with clients, that every human being has a unique set of experiences and feelings and to “look for what is special about each individual, focus on that.” He seems to believe that this is a true and valuable way of seeing people, but the reality is, he is unable to perceive specialness in life anymore, and it’s killing him. Perhaps in his search for some fantasized version of human connection, he’s grown blind to the specialness that exists in the mundane, everyday experience of life. His story is a tragedy. There’s so much technical achievement, excellent writing, and superb detail to extol in this movie, but it ends on a flat note for me. Perhaps if you feel that the universe is a godless place, and we’re all just rats in cages, then this movie might comfort you in it’s profound empathy. But because the film seems to acknowledge there is specialness and light in life and people, it’s discouraging that it leaves us in a hole with Michael at the end, without a sliver of hope.

About the Author: Sarey Martin
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