A promising plot, subpar execution, that even Simon Pegg’s charming nature cannot save.
A Fantastic Fear of Everything
Crispian Mills’ A Fantastic Fear of Everything, while it falls short of being fantastic itself, offers a character study in what it is like to be an individual coming to terms with past childhood experiences. Enter Jack (Simon Pegg), a children’s author dealing with severe abandonment issues that have over the years translated into an irrational fear of pretty much everything, as the title implies.
Throughout the first half of the film, we get to know Jack as an emotional wreck, who can’t quite seem to get his life together. The premise is similar to many other films of the same genre, in that we see an individual on the verge of success but there is something holding them back. In this case it is Jack’s own mental state and as the film progresses he slips further and further into his world of paranoia.
A meeting with his agent (Clare Higgins) set’s the plot in motion as she sets up a meeting with a Hollywood producer interested in Jack’s latest project Decades of Death. This could be the big break that Jack needs to get out of his rut. If only he could muster up the courage to go out and…get a suit! As he gets ready for the meeting he becomes convinced that this producer he is slated to meet is somehow related to one of the murderers whose pictures line the walls of his apartment. He also realizes that he does not own a suit, and that he needs to do laundry in order to at least have something presentable to wear, if he decides to actually make it to the meeting. Coming to the realization of this fact, he grows even more fearful as we learn that the launderette is where his insecurity stems from for this is the exact location where he was abandoned as a child.
The film is shot in a very unique manner, which aids in demonstrating how far gone Jack truly is. For much of the first half of the film, he’s clad in his robe and underwear as he frantically makes his way through his apartment. The flat is eery and dark in atmosphere, as Jack flees from shadows looming around almost every corner. The angles and the lighting in which it is shot lend themselves nicely to the hallucinations and distorted vantage point that crowd out Jack’s ability to think clearly. He fears the outside world, so much so that he does not dare risk his life to leave his home, even to go to the launderette to do his dirty laundry. Pegg’s delivery is convincing and it’s easy to believe there truly is someone out to get him.
Pegg is the strongest part of this film and as usual delivers the necessary comedic highlights in the film. However, as great of a character actor as Pegg is, this is not enough, as much of the time Pegg is a “one man show” and though he is fully committed to the role and he tries to keep the plot alive, it still manages to fall short of what it could be.
The second half of the movie comes across as disjointed, as Jack finally makes his way to the launderette, and sets off an unraveling of events where he almost meets an untimely end. Rather than helping to drive the story along, this action sequences only succeeds in confusing us further and adding to an already drawn out story. Through it all, Jack eventually comes to terms with and faces his fears and ultimately recovers his lost self, acknowledging that the defense mechanisms he put into place actually played a role in his recovery.
One important principle can be gleaned from this film, that at the end of it all, no matter how difficult it may be to get ourselves out of painful situations, once released from the things that haunt us, we may truly be able to move on.