Stranger Than Fiction Marc Forster

Original scripts are so few and far between in Hollywood that once one makes it to the big screen and is executed to near-perfection, it hits like a ton of bricks. Stranger Than Fiction succeeds on every level — from deadpan comedy to tragic drama and even touching romance — and manages to blend all these elements together with charm, cleverness and spot-on performances from its cast. As an I.R.S. agent, Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) leads an incredibly dull life filled with numbers — not only at his job but he also counts the strokes it takes to brush his teeth or the amount of steps it takes to get to the bus stop. Each day is mathematically plotted out via his digital wristwatch, from his coffee and lunch breaks to the time he returns to bed in order to do it all again. Harold doesn’t have any friends or hobbies and he certainly doesn’t have a girlfriend, but his perspective on life and how he lives it all changes when he begins to hear a woman’s voice in his head.

The possibility of schizophrenia is touched upon but once this woman refers to Harold in the third person he soon realises that his life is being narrated — rather than telling him what to do she is commenting on what he’s done, but with a much better vocabulary. The narrator winds up being reclusive author Kay Eiffel (Emma Thompson), who has been shacked up working on her book Death and Taxes for the past ten years, and her main character just happens to be Harold. The how and why of her story and Harold’s life intertwining are never fully explored, but Harold has no choice but to take action once he learns that, like all her past characters, he will die at the end of the tale.

Stranger Than Fiction looks absolutely beautiful and utilises engaging animation sequences to emphasise Harold’s mathematical thoughts, i.e., tap water temperatures and tax return blueprints, but it doesn’t over use this or its often-colourful cinematography. The script is incredibly strong thanks to newcomer Zach Helm, and each one of his characters adds a great amount to the story, such as Maggie Gyllenhaal’s incredibly sweet role as Harold’s love interest and Dustin Hoffman as the literary professor who attempts to guide our hero through his odd dilemma.

In the final leg, after all the seeds have been planted, you are taken for an emotional ride, as Harold’s fate is uncertain; it’s like an intensely good book where you vigorously turn the pages to see what happens next. By this point you can’t help but love Harold, as he is an innocent, likable man whose life depends on the imagination of a God-like author, so to watch him realise that he has lost control of his fate is heartbreaking. Stranger Than Fiction is easily one of the best films of the year.

(Sony)