Watched Keane today, a remarkably discomforting film, written and directed by Lodge H. Kerrigan, with a central performance by Damian Lewis that defies categorization. Itâ€™s a claustrophobic exercise in eliciting viewer paranoia as it chronicles a mentally unstable man (is he manic-schizophrenic or simply a paranoid schizophrenic . . . I donâ€™t own a copy of DSM IV so who knows) who is on the lam, off his meds, and may or may not be responsible for the abduction of a daughter the audience is not even sure ever existed. Lewisâ€™s ability to waver from moments of lucidity to a man fighting the voices raging inside his head is downright frightening (and strangely endearing once you remind yourself the guy wonâ€™t crawl through the television), and it is this portrait of a man with whom most of us would avoid eye contact (or even cross the street to stay out of his path . . . the gritty underbelly of midtown Manhattan hasnâ€™t looked so bleak and uninviting for a long time) that occupies the first forty-five minutes of the film. But then William connects with a young mother and her seven-year-old daughter holed up in the low-rent hotel where William lives. It is here that a more conventional plot kicks in and the relationship between Keane and this little girl is thrilling due to the filmâ€™s unwillingness to make it easy on the audience. Not for the faint of heart or the overindulgent parent; still, Keane rarely goes where you expect it to go and that makes it a truly fine piece of work.
A note: the disc I received from Netflix includes an alternative cut of the film by Steven Soderbergh that is a good twenty minutes shorter than Kerriganâ€™s cut. I might encourage you to watch that version as I did feel the first forty-five minutes could have used some judicious editing. All in all, a troubling but powerful film.