What happens when an outcast reunites with an old imaginary friend? In this case, a very chaotic effect in this very demented film that also tackles a very serious issue.
Luke is a young man who ten years ago, convinced her mom he had an imaginary friend named Daniel. When Daniel forced Luke to give his mother her entire bottle of pills, she overdoses but luckily survives. However, the ramifications force Luke to lock Daniel inside his grandmother’s doll house. As Luke returns home from college, he discovers his mother Claire, has released Daniel and she realizes she needs help and gets herself into a mental institution.
The reunion of Luke and Daniel seems to go well at first. However, when Luke begins a relationship with local artist Cassie, Daniel begins to show signs of jealousy. He decides to take drastic measures and even finds himself inside Luke. Luke, beginning to realize that he may be responsible for things that have affected those close to him, decides to find a way to get rid of Daniel. However, it’s not going to be as easy as he thinks.
Co-written by the team who brought you Some Kind of Hate, this is a film that tackles the issue of mental illness and its effects. However, the film can be said to be the 1990s underrated comedy Drop Dead Fred re-imagined as a very terrifying movie. The idea of imaginary friends are usually seen in comedies so to see it as a more terrifying tale with the imaginary friend bringing a sense of evil to the mix.
The driving forces of the film are Miles Robbins and Patrick Schwarzenegger as Luke and Daniel respectively. Robbins is excellent in the role of the outcast Luke, who finds himself getting a bit more confidence when he reunites with Daniel. However, it is Schwarzenegger who gives a tour de force performance in the titular role of the imaginary friend who, as part of Luke, decides out of jealousy to start making trouble. It is clear that the young Schwarzenegger is going a different acting route than his famous action star dad. While he has done his share of comedy (Grown Ups 2) and romance (Midnight Sun), this role could be considered one of his best roles as he unleashes the terror and goes as far as doing the unthinkable in the film’s third act.
Veteran Mary Stuart Masterson gives a very natural and excellent performance as Luke’s unhinged mother Claire, who suffers from mental illness and this is where the film tackles the issue. Perhaps Luke’s “illness” and need for Daniel comes from the traumatic event he experiences in the film’s opening sequence. We even see Luke deal with his issues through seeing a therapist, well played by Chukwudi Iwuji, who even attempts to help Luke deal with Daniel through a very inventive method. The final act is a real hoot and even gets to showcase something never imagined in the genre as much these days but shows how much mental illness is a serious issue that must be addressed.
Daniel Isn’t Real can be said to be a demented, f**ked up Drop Dead Fred with the topic of mental illness a serious issue to be addressed, led by a tour de force performance by Patrick Schwarzenegger in the titular role.
WFG RATING: A-
Samuel Goldwyn Films presents an Ace Films/Spectrevision production. Director: Adam Egypt Mortimer. Producers: Daniel Noah, Josh Waller, Lisa Whalen, and Elijah Wood. Writers: Adam Egypt Mortimer and Brian DeLeeuw; based on the novel “In This Way, I Was Saved” by DeLeeuw. Cinematography: Lyle Vincent. Editing: Brett W. Bachman.
Cast: Miles Robbins, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Sasha Lane, Mary Stuart Masterson, Hannah Marks, Chukwudi Iwuji, Andrew Bridges, Katie Chang, Michael Cuomo, Roseanne Ma.