Griff the Invisible

Griff the Invisible

Director: Leon Ford
Starring: Ryan Kwanten, Maeve Dermody, Toby Schmitz, and Patrick Brammall
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Runtime: 92 mins. Reviewed in Nov 2011
| JustWatch |
Rating notes: Coarse language and infrequent violence

This romantic, comedy-drama by Australian actor, Leon Ford (“Beneath Hill 60”), premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2010, and is Ford’s first feature film. Australian in concept, production and direction, it uses Sydney and its immediate locations to wonderful advantage. Central Railway Station in Sydney is instantly recognizable, and looks great on film. The film features Sydney, not as a glossy city with a famous scenic harbour, but as a city where there are mean backstreets, and where the occurrence of crime and the appearance of police are altogether too frequent. The hero of the movie is Griff, a masked crusader, who exists to battle evil, and to bring justice to people in need. Weak by day, and strong by night, he delivers justice with fierce determination.

Griff (Ryan Kwanton) is a pathologically shy, reclusive young man, who works at an unnamed shipping company somewhere in Darling Harbour, Sydney, and is bullied mercilessly by his fellow co-worker, Tony (Toby Schmitz). Griff is different and is laughed at by those around him; to them he is a dreamer, who doesn’t mix. But, in fantasy and reality, he is a masked super-hero, who rescues people at night in the streets of inner-Surry Hills when they are attacked or robbed. At times, we never know for sure whether Griff’s escapades are imaginary, or real, but this is the sort of film where it doesn’t matter. Tim, his older brother (Patrick Brammall), has come to Sydney from Adelaide to protect Griff, and introduces Griff to his girl-friend, Melody (Maeve Dermody), a young science-minded woman, who believes in seemingly nonsensical things, such as walking through walls, and cats living in nine parallel universes. Attracted to Griff’s imagination, because she sees a fit with her own oddness, Melody falls for Griff and encourages his superhero crusade.

Griff needs to be invisible, because he is a vulnerable target for others if people can see him, and Melody makes him a special suit to wear. She knows he is visible in it, but Griff thinks he isn’t. Griff loses his job at work, and he has an identity crisis. He wonders why it is that only Melody acknowledges him as a superhero, and why he is regarded generally as a freak. He decides to give up his crusade and return to reality so as to court Melody in a normal way, but she rejects him because he no longer shares her imaginary “bubble”. Love pulls him back into Melody’s bubble, and Griff re-enters his world of fantasy. The final scenes show Griff in Melody’s invisible suit, which everybody else, but Griff, knows doesn’t work.

Both Griff and Melody are characters, caught in their own madness, who instil oddness with warmth, and appeal. They are a delightful couple, who gain total pleasure in being social misfits in a world they create for themselves. The acting of Kwanton and Dermody gives surprising depth to a touching story, and Ford laces the attraction between Griff and Melody with invention and wit.

The bizarreness of Griff’s and Melody’s behaviour aside, the movie turns out to be a tale, tinged with sadness stemming from loneliness, about the love-attraction between two very unusual people. The relationship between Griff and Melody is drawn delicately. The fertile imagination of Ford is behind the story, and he unfolds the attraction between the two leads in a comic and charming way. The production of the movie is impressive, and obviously helped by the executive skills of Jan Chapman, who produced “The Piano” (1993).

It takes a little time for the impact of this movie to seep in, but when it does, and Melody begins to absorb Griff into her own delusions, the delight the film engenders becomes tangible. The film is very entertaining, and it lingers in your mind as a very enjoyable and original experience.

The film is in limited release, and word will undoubtedly spread on how sweet and beguiling this home-grown piece of Australian cinema really is.

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