He's a dreamer, stuck in the real world.
One man’s eccentric is another man’s freak and Griff The Invisible explores how such divergent perceptions feed into the human condition. The film has heart and it has whimsy (a rare commodity in Australian films) with a playful tone that doesn’t try to convince us through overt naturalism that we are seeing real life. It’s a bit like a parable, told with tongue in cheek. You buy it or you don’t. I buy it.
Griff (Ryan Kwanten, of ‘True Blood’) works in an office by day, where he is the shy object of fun for the office bully. But by night, he becomes his suburb’s superhero, suitably outfitted with a superhero’s wardrobe and ready to fight against the darker forces of the street.
The opening sequence establishes how Griff’s view of the world around him dovetails into reality. This is cleverly done with the tools of performance and direction.
Increasingly concerned by Griff’s eccentric behaviour, his brother Tim (Patrick Brammall) tries to persuade him to be more…well, ordinary, like everyone else. But when Tim’s shortlived new date, Melody (Maeve Dermody) meets Griff, she is instantly fascinated by Griff’s idiosyncrasies. A man after her own, quirky heart, Melody begins to fall for Griff.
Kwanten’s Griff is a complex character hiding inside his invisible shell, his yellow raincoat a symbol of the inner eccentric wanting to get out. It’s a remarkably sensitive portrayal, going from almost childish and naïve to tortured young man. Dermody is cute and convincing as his soul mate in waiting, a girl who is as much of a misfit as he is, but who recognises and accepts that this is how she must live. And so must Griff.
In a film which is built with nuance and detail, the filmmaking team (led by producer Nicole O’Donohue and crowded with female heads of departments) have delivered handsomely; Karen Johnson’s editing, Sophie Nash’s production design and the terrific, versatile music of Sep Caton, Lee Devaney and Larissa Rate all play a big role. Simon Chapman’s cinematography is also notable.
Leon Ford’s feature debut suggests cinematic talent to spare. The apparent scale of the film is small but the underlying exploration of human nature is deep, and universal. Griff and Melody make a conscious decision about living the way they are, which is both brave and honest. We could all learn from these two, not to copy them but to emulate their courage. Ford argues here that happiness in life comes not from conformity but honesty.
Above all, though, it’s a fun film, with moments of wild abandon and some darker, more serious notes. There is a romanticism to its tone too – in the real sense of romantic – which provides this romantic comedy with a magic sensibility, propelled along by the performances.
– Andrew L. Urban, Urban Cinefile