These fine actors erase the distance between us and the screen.

It's Kind of a Funny Story

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


            It's Kind of a Funny Story is a beautiful movie. It is an extraordinarily sensitive story of a boy courageous enough to ask for help when he needs it and kind enough to befriend fellow sufferers on the path to recovery. This young man is not a narcissist.
            Plagued by dreams of his own suicide, Craig (Keir Gilchrist) rides his bike to a hospital close by his home and asks to be admitted. With the teenage floor under renovation, he is assigned to the adult psychiatric floor where he is told - after expressing second thoughts - that he must stay a full five days. During that period we, along with Craig, will meet the patients who share some form of the insecurity or illness that has brought them there. All are presented without judgment by the filmmakers and by Craig, who meets them quietly, as new peers.
            Bobby (Zach Galifianakis), who tells us only that he has an 8 year old daughter, watches Craig with a sweetly quizzical eye in protective recognition that the young boy has much to learn about life. Another teenager, Noelle (Emma Roberts), wears unexplained scars from cuts on her cheek and arms. Drawn together by age, Craig and Noelle find support in simply being together. Dr. Minerva (Viola Davis), tends to her patients in individual conversations where she quietly encourages or questions their decisions. From these bare bones of a story you are right to wonder why the movie captures its audience.
            Perhaps because we aren't asked to take sides with anyone, perhaps because there is no cruelty, perhaps because we know so little of anyone's backstory, and surely because the movie doesn't present us with choices between right and wrong - because of this we are free to let it sink in without reacting. Because of this, these very fine actors erase the distance between us and the screen and simply burrow into our hearts. In particular, Zach Galifianakis's Bobby and Keir Gilchrist's Craig touch us deeply with their friendship - Bobby mentoring the boy with few words, Craig giving his elder the gift of respect and affection. Zach Galifianakis manages to convey depth without explanation.
            The movie is so gentle and so good that you may well find yourself moved by imagining the fear and insecurity that must boil inside the young people you know and love. So much about growing up is hard, so much is buried. We can thank Ned Vizzini for the book on which this film is based, Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck for their for their gentle script and direction. Can any of them have imagined finding Keir Gilchrist to interpret their work? The actor stops us cold with the unspoken questions and pressures that gnaw at young people as they grow up in a culture set on speed-dial. We can thank him for that lesson and for a performance that stays with all of us who see it.


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