DEATH OF A SUPERHERO | GLASGOW FILM FESTIVAL | FILM REVIEWS
by Sarah Duncan
Ever since seeing films like Steel Magnolias and My Girl when I was young I have been determined to never again repeat the mistake of watching a film where I knew the main character was doomed. Not because I’m prone to bursting into tears when I see a character kick the bucket but more that it’s often a lazy and predictable way to make some lasting impact on the viewer.
However, I am more than pleased to say that like minded cinema goers should make an exception for Death of a Superhero. It’s difficult to categorise a film such as this; true that at the heart of it is a teenager dying from cancer but it would be doing it an injustice to label it a weepy. I guess the closest thing it resembles is simply a story about growing up, albeit when the person getting a lesson in life’s hard knocks is slipping away.
It would have been very easy to spoon feed the audience all that they needed to know in the opening scenes but instead we are introduced to Donald (Thomas Brodie-Sangster – of Love Actually fame) and his family in the midst of his treatment as opposed to being present at his diagnoses, family reaction and of course (a soap opera favourite) – the shedding of hair head.
The decision to bring the audience in somewhere in the middle of his illness makes the film all the more engaging. There’s no need to baby the viewer – we all know what cancer is – the story instantly pulls you in and carries you along on a moving, truthful and at times, comical ride.
Donald’s friends and family (played wonderfully by Sharon Hogan and Michael McElhatton) provide superb support whether it’s trying to get their follicly challenged chum laid before he departs or sharing a joint at the bottom of the garden – my own favourite scene of the film. Donald’s shrink, the latest of many, is played by Andy Serkis sporting a heavy-duty cardigan who is clearly facing his own demons whilst attempting to help his newest patient face his. Shrinks are a difficult one in films; they usually follow the same formula of initial hostility on the part of the patient, the warming period and then end up with the shrink being the only person who understands the patient. Death of a Superhero isn’t a million miles away from this trope but I wouldn’t go as far to say it does the film a disservice.
Death of a Superhero is not for everyone – an older audience or those with no interest in comic book art may be put off by the frequent scenes interjected by live animation (the Nursey Worsey character springs to mind here). It didn’t really work in Who Framed Roger Rabbit and likewise, it’s the film’s weak point in this case.
Despite this, which may be nitpicking on my part, you’d be hard pushed not to be at least partially won over by the film’s overall charm.
Andy Serkis may receive top billing but it’s Aislin Loftus, playing Shelly,the quirky new girl at school and Thomas Brodie-Sangster who really steal the show. My money is on Loftus being very much in demand both in the UK and across the pond in future; a versatile and very watchable actress that reminds the luvvie sceptics that acting is indeed a craft.
A film about a dying teenager would not have been my first choice for a feel good movie Wednesday but if you’re a fan of slick, touching and witty Brit-flicks then I would urge you to go see it. I guarantee it will make your day.