Narcissist – Review

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Where do you draw the line between self-confidence and perhaps possessing an overly-inflated sense of self-worth? Lincoln-based independent film company Quandary Productions offers creative insight into this question with their fourth feature film production, the aptly named Narcissist.

Shot over 4 weekends and with a production budget of £2000, Narcissist is an anti-romantic comedy that follows the friendship of aspiring actors Leonard (Michael Henry) and Nathan (Tom Bridger) as they delve into the art of picking-up women and collecting a stack of victory phone-numbers in the process.

Written, directed, edited and produced by starring actor Michael Henry, Narcissist is an interesting exploration of what happens when the human psyche goes AWOL. Despite the title of the film, Narcissist perhaps impresses most in how it, ironically, has a very down-to-earth script that plays out as very genuine and natural in its content.

When we first meet main character Leonard, he has recently split up with his girlfriend and is struggling to launch his acting career. Due to Leonard’s incredibly uncharismatic persona and the perhaps unfortunate geeky connotations conjured from his name by hit sitcom The Big Bang Theory, one also may begin to think that there is no hope for him. Humour and the opposite side of the personality-wheel comes along in the form of quirky best-friend Nathan, who, unlike Leonard, often pursues a string of successful one-night stands and also appears to be successful in his acting career. Unhappy and understandably hurt from the knowledge of his ex-girlfriend moving on from their split, Leonard decides to attend a master-class for picking up women and convinces a reluctant Nathan to come along with him.

The art of picking-up women is definitely not one to be underestimated in this 92 minute feature, as will be proved by the enigmatically named pick-up guru ‘Enigma’. Leonard is taught by the guru to basically craft an entirely new persona for himself and to stand-out from the crowd in terms of dress-code and personal grooming. As Enigma wears a bright green suit-jacket and a white Frank Sinatra-esque hat, let’s hope he takes no fashion inspiration from him. In somewhat Lord Sugar in The Apprentice boardroom style, Enigma repeatedly asks a deflated Leonard why he is actually there to see him and then, upon Leonard’s response, angrily tells him that he doesn’t care about his life story. This tough-love approach inspires a montage of Enigma mentoring Leonard in his quest to reinvent himself, a segment that would be reminiscent of ladies-man mentor Ryan Gosling in Crazy, Stupid, Love if Enigma were perhaps 30 years younger, stylish and of course had the ability to make young women swoon with the drop of a t-shirt.

As Leonard continues to mold himself into Lord of the pick-ups, he progressively gains a lot more attention from women, however he also progressively transforms into more of a budding megalomaniac as his one-night stand quota steadily continues to rack up. Due to the majority of Leonard’s attention now going into accumulating phone-numbers, fluffing his hair and learning more from guru Enigma, it’s unsurprising that his relationship with best friend Nathan begins to suffer. Despite the obvious shift in Nathan and Leonard’s friendship, Nathan’s days of one-night stands now appear to be over as he begins to develop a relationship; however he does have an awful lot of awkward conversations with random by-passers about the apparent halt in his acting career.

Commendation should be given to the script as being highly impressive in how it conveys a very natural and unforced dialogue throughout, which is somewhat tricky given the dramatic premise of the story. The script also gives life to some well-executed character arcs, proving that the characters are certainly not one-dimensional in both personality and purpose.

With a small main cast, the acting is equally consistent and is even impressively understated at times. At first glance the character Nathan could appear to serve as comedic cannon-fodder, however actor Tom Bridger in fact begins to incorporate great personality and likeability to his character with every scene he is featured in.

The direction featured in Narcissist is also impressive in how it includes a large amount of static shots that are able to serve incredibly well in conveying the thematic intensity of the film through allowing the script to take centre-stage with no quick camera movements or distractions. Also, the camera-positioning of some silent shots can be seen as an intelligent reflection of the character’s moods, in particular the character Leonard who appears to spend a large amount of screen-time either standing or sitting in a very dark and brooding manner.

The soundtrack, created by the conveniently named Sebastian Moody, works well to provide a dark and somewhat sinister underscore that runs throughout the film. Neither overbearing or non-purposeful, Moody’s soundtrack certainly compliments the gritty psychological nature of Narcissist and is also impressive in it being all original music created by the composer.

While there is no doubt that Narcissist is a thoroughly interesting and enjoyable take on modern romantic interactions and human relationships,  its dialogue-heavy script and intense psychological subject matter could perhaps be seen as too overbearing for some casual film viewers. However, due to the script in fact being heavily impressive itself and also the talented cast featured throughout, Narcissist is certainly a feature you should consider indulging yourself in.

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