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Be sure to watch our review above where we discuss further the spoiler-free details of this fascinating film, even we don’t always agree. Few mainstream movies take risks anymore with larger studios fearful of the potential loss, more willing to commit to recognizable brand names and predictable formulas rather pushing genres forward. Certainly, there are exceptions, with most anything produced by filmmakers such as Christopher Nolan and David Lynch to name a few in an already small handful, but most theater experiences are a carefully designed regime of practiced safety.
Fortunately, there are independent movies and filmmakers who often blaze trails in the name of the art, and while many have shifted perceptions and gone on to grander things, most remain obscure fan films that make a few sparks but do nothing in terms of changing cinema. Perhaps that’s okay, and there is comfort in that. It allows indie movies to continue to be breeding grounds for experimentation.
Such is the case with The Man With Four Legs, a film written and directed by Ed Christmas, a movie with an already intriguing title that has an even more compelling story. It centers on three young men of vastly differing personalities collectively working on a documentary about a curious man who has just woken from a coma, suffering from amnesia. The movie seems to be a faux documentary, taking jabs at the process and in many ways feeling like a scathing commentary on journalism and the impossibility of impartial observation. Where it goes as it reaches its decidedly abstract and terrifying ending is something altogether different, and yet, it remains possible to connect it with hubris behind the camera. It is in no uncertain terms, a brain-twister.
We meet Angus (Richard Southgate), the leader of the filmmakers, an obnoxious, pretentious, smarmy, and callous man who has interest only in the fame the film he wants to make might generate. With that, he takes liberties with what they collect and manipulates moments in hopes of editing footage into something better if need be (At one point he slaps his subject, looking only to film the reaction). His partners are Tom (Daniel Ormerod), an indifferent co-director and Ethan (Terry Sweeney), the cameraman who is their opposite, quiet, introverted, and able to see more in what is happening than the other two.
Their subject is James (Simon Dobson), who seems most peculiar, never sleeping, walking about seemingly recognizing people on the street who say they know nothing about him. He has odd powers of future immediate knowledge, such the predicting the colors of coming cars, but there is a hollowness about him that leaves him all the more curious. A mystery builds about why he came to be injured and why he has come to what he is, all of which the young men try to solve, each layer drawing them deeper into a story that seems wholly impossible for them to accept. Indeed, there is a darkness coming.
The Man With Four Legs does answer the meaning behind its clever title, though it will not be quite so obvious (no, there is no person with four actual legs) if you’re not paying attention. And paying attention is crucial especially in the last act when things become a whirl of misdirection and seemingly unexplained actions. That’s the great part of a film like this, the almost insurmountable questions it invokes. Some will switch off and dismiss it as incomplete or unstructured, and others will pore over every seemingly purposeful frame for clues and make judgments on just what is happening and why. I am of the second camp and am invigorated by films like this, ones that poke at our brains to inspire and challenge. Watch it and no matter your opinion, make note that you feel something. How often does a film do that?
Movie description: The Man With Four Legs is a 2017 thriller about a team of documentarians who investigate an odd man with amnesia, trying to uncover his identity.
Director(s): Ed Christmas
Actor(s): Richard Southgate, Simon Dobson, Daniel Ormerod
Genre: Drama, Thriller