Charlie (James Wren) is an unlucky in love gardener, who’s told by all his friends that he’s simply too nice. In an effort to spice up his dating life and build up his confidence, his flat mate and neighbour encourage him to pretend to be different people in order to date several women and get a taste of what he’s been missing. It goes well for a short time, but it’s not long before Charlie is losing sense of who is, and has to make amends.
The Man You’re Not is clearly well meaning, but sadly falls flat; admittedly the film’s final message is far less toxic than the first act suggests, and does ultimately vilify the problematic “Nice guy” sentiment that it’s based around, but it’s a rushed and uninteresting experience. There’s no real power to the punch of it’s message when ideally it should have been the most important or through provoking part of it. At a short 80 minutes, there’s little room for satisfying development in pretty much any of the characters. The way in which the film builds it’s relationships and central conflicts followed by the resolutions and ending is akin to writing a sentence too far long for a piece of paper and having no space at the end of the line to finish; it’s all set up reasonably well through it’s first hour, then brought to a close in it’s final 20 minutes in a fairly rushed manner. Granted, as a low budget production it may not have been feasible to extend the running time and as I say, the film clearly has good intentions, it’s just unfortunate that it’s final length couldn’t accommodate the story it’s telling.
That’s not to say this film doesn’t have it’s positives; there are a few laughs scattered throughout, and that’s largely down to James Wren’s lead performance. In fact, the entire cast do a good job, but the film’s humour is uninspired and each person feels like a lazy caricature – Flamboyant gay flat mate who’s ridiculously camp and wearing a different costume in each scene, handsome neighbour who sleeps around and is always dirty minded but does have a heart underneath, a close friend who clearly has feelings for the main character but is often neglected and the main character is completely oblivious to it, the close family members who acts as the voice of reason – It’s no crime to use cliches in a comedy but when it gets to this point that none of the characters really resemble actual people, but rather walking-talking punchlines designed to provoke a cheap laugh, it’s hard to engage with the humour. On top of that, the jokes (and a lot of the script in general) are very on the nose and contrived with maybe too much time dedicated to some mildly amusing celebrity cameos, one of which tries far too hard to be weird for the sake of being weird and there’s little laughs to be found in it.
It’s not for lack of trying, as it means well and boasts a good cast, but The Man You’re Not suffers from lazy humour and fails to drive it’s point home in it’s short run time.
The Man You’re Not screens at East End Film Festival on 21st April.