The charming opening sequence sees middle-aged Michael Stone (a tender, hesitant David Thewlis) take a flight to Cincinnati and a tedious taxi journey to the Hotel Fregoli. It’s an irresistible meditation on the small talk, awkward eye contact and meaningless platitudes that prevent us from making real, human connections.
Inspired by Fregoli syndrome, in which sufferers believe everyone is the same person, everyone but Michael shares the same face and voice (Tom Noonan of Kaufman’s 2008 film Synecdoche, New York). That is, until Michael meets nervous, self-conscious Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh).
Stop-motion may appear a strange medium for Kaufman’s 15 rated material but it provokes a degree of intimacy within and between his characters that’s frequently absent in live-action features. Each aching second of stop-motion makes internal anxieties concrete. Michael’s loneliness is inextricably linked to the way he perceives the world.
In just 90 minutes, Michael revisits his failed relationships, looks inwardly for something ‘seriously wrong’ and allows his anxiety about Bush-era America to overwhelm him. His pre-eminence as a customer services professional only magnifies Michael’s inability to articulate his true feelings, while a fleeting reference to a Japanese antique reminds us Michael’s problem is centuries old. It’s touches like these that make Anomalisa Kaufman’s remarkably intricate and genuinely moving tour de force.
VERDICT: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 5/5
Running time: 90 minutes
Images: © 2015 Paramount Pictures