‘I can’t be normal through all this, I just can’t…’
Death is not an easy topic. Cinematically, it is often portrayed as being this profound and intimate thing, a dignified farewell that acts as the perfect conclusion to a life free of regret. In truth, death is often frighteningly mundane. It’s messy, it’s rushed and it often results in more problems than resolutions. The things left unsaid. The moments played over again and again in your mind. Paddleton is a film about death. And while it is cinematic and even heartwarming in places, it is also unflinching and realistic.
Michael (Mark Duplass) and Andy (Ray Romano) are close friends and neighbours. When Michael is diagnosed with terminal cancer, the two attempt to continue their life of made up games, puzzles and kung-fu movies against the backdrop of Michael’s impending mortality.
Paddleton is a film that is just as much a comment on male companionship and loneliness as it is a meditation on death. Duplass and Romano share a genuinely beautiful chemistry. The former perfectly capturing the vulnerable, yet peaceful acceptance of a man who has ran out of options, while Romano represents the anger and denial that anyone who has gone through this rite of passage will be all too familiar with. Together they capture the nuance and togetherness of true friendship. The in jokes, the petty arguments and the comfortable silences. Paddleton thrives in its quieter moments. A glance into the distance. The ghost of a smile behind the eyes.
This is not a flashy film, and it will be too slow for some, but for fans of Duplass and his lowkey style, this second collaboration with director Alex Lehmann must go down as a resounding success. A quietly contemplative yet beautiful work.