The Man in the Hat
Not interested in listening to endless exposition about time inversion? Put off by the harsh reviews of a much-delayed superhero flick? No nostalgia for Preston Logan? Well, here’s a nice, original, wholesome, unpretentious little film for British people in safer areas to see on the big screen.
A movie so whimsical it makes Wes Anderson’s filmography look doleful, The Man in the Hat is a road-trip comedy in which we fellow said man in the hat (Irish character actor Ciarán Hinds) as he tours the beautiful south of France in his blue Fiat 500. He’s presumably travelling for catharsis, if the picture of a beautiful woman he is clinging onto is any indication. Perhaps he’s memorialising a dead spouse on this odyssey, in the same way a father walks the Camino de Santiago in memory of his late son in Emilio Estevez’s underappreciated The Way. The protagonist can’t move around in peace, though, as he’s interrupted one night after a hearty dinner by five angry strangers in a Citroën Dyane who stay on his tail after he witnesses them dump a dead body into the water.
Wherever the man goes, the same quintet of scowling men is there, apparently not by coincidence, yet with no particular urgency either. As anxious as the protagonist is about this gang, the car chase unfolds at a marvellously leisurely pace, allowing for sweet ventures and odd detours involving a medley of unnamed individuals including a lonesome biker (Maïwenn), a river dweller (fellow Game of Thrones alumni Stephen Dillane) and a bunch of singing car mechanics. With a light fantastical touch and often awe-inspiring visuals (the locations make the DoP’s work too easy), it plays like a Jean-Pierre Jeunet film without the dialogue.
The reliably outstanding Hinds doesn’t have to worry about illustrating French articulation as he delivers a performance which hinges on his physical expression. His convincing non-verbal comic ability registers somewhere between Elia Suleiman and Rowan Atkinson in the spectrum of voiceless acting. It’ll perhaps be too droll for some, and feels a little aimless with the non-existent throughline in each of the protagonist’s encounters, but aside from this, The Man in the Hat is a perfect example of the kind of pleasant diversion one should seek during these trying times.
The Man in the Hat is released in select cinemas on 18th September 2020.
Watch the trailer for The Man in the Hat here: