Cinematic Releases: Such a Funny Life (2019) - Reviewed

It's often said that there is no one sadder than a clown, and it's said with good reason. Some of the most recognizably funny people have proven to be those that hurt the most, those who have dealt with more than their fair share of sadness and tumult and, in turn, use others' laughter as a balm to soothe their aching souls. Oliver Mann explores the gray area between comedy and tragedy with his new release, Such a Funny Life. The film stars Gonzalo Trigueros as David, an aspiring comedian trying to make it in LA, while simultaneously dealing with his tragic past. The film is dark, dismal and depressing, with David's brief stand up scenes the only break from the bleak heartache that permeates the film.

For the most part, Mann has created a compelling story for David. Timelines shift rapidly and incongruously, but David's appearance is an easy to read indicator of when in the story we are. There are no punches pulled with regards to content, pretty much any possible traumatic, domestic issue that happens in real life happens in this film. One would think that a story dealing with violently and emotionally abusive relationships, drug and alcohol addiction, mental illness and disability could get confusing, but somehow, Mann's storytelling avoids overwhelming the audience and manages to keep all the balls in the air seamlessly. And he does so without hand feeding the audience; there is very little exposition, and very little explanation of anything the viewer sees on the screen. This film could've been a true mess, but Mann makes it all work.

Without the correct cast, this film would've been a failure. The subject matter here, and the way the film is shot, requires near perfection from every actor on screen. Luckily for Mann, Such a Funny Life chock full of fantastic, believable performances. Alongside Trigueros' deftly played David, Natasha Strang gives an emotional, gut wrenching performance as David's endlessly troubled mother, Mariah. Tom Ashton, playing David's rotten father Ralph, manages to adds levels to a character that could've easily been portrayed as nothing more than a cartoon-ish villain. Rounding out the cast with a solid, devastating performance, is Wilma Rivera as the deeply troubled Marcella. While the entire cast is fantastic, these four really play their characters with such a breath of reality, that it's easy for the viewer to get sucked in to their lives.

Such a Funny Life is, on the whole, well executed and engaging. There are times, most likely due to the weight of the subject matter, that the film feels much longer than it's brief 95 minute run time, but this is forgivable, especially considering just how much is tackled within those 95 minutes. While the film may suffer a bit for it's low budget, nothing is taken away from its meaning and Mann succeeds in presenting a realistic film that delicately avoids the black and white and remains fully in the gray area of life we're all living in. 

--Josie Stec