Once in a blue moon, a film comes along that defies genre identification ...and so goes FRANKLYN, a movie that transcends anything you think you've ever seen. A hybrid in terms of style, Franklyn might best be described as Frank Miller (the artist) meets The Dark Knight (Batman) in Brazil (the movie). I say this because none of these items alone help explain the convoluted-ness that is this story, and none should. It goes beyond them. Way beyond them.
Visually appealing on almost every level, Franklyn has two divergent stories that seem to have nothing to do with each other. In one we're privy to a kind of superhero trying to avenge the death of a young girl whom we know nothing about. He chases after "The Individual" in a city known as Meanwhile. Looking, as stated earlier, somewhere along the lines of a Frank Miller graphic mixed with a kind of Dark Knight quality, the story intrigues and makes us cheer on the main character, Jonathan Preest (Ryan Philleppe, Flags of Our Fathers). I mean, trying to avenge the death of an innocent girl is noble, right? Equally intriguing within the city of Meanwhile are the many religions that flourish, including the Seventh Day Manicurists. Everyone is required to have a religious affiliation ...except our "hero" who is subsequently tracked by highly skilled fighting monks.
In the second story, a woman named Emilia (Eva Green, The Golden Compass) tries to come to terms with her life and her art. She consistently tries to kill herself for the sake of it only to learn that her art just isn't inspiring enough. Also, a man in search of his missing son comes to the psychiatrist who'd been treating him only to learn that his son escaped and is out in the world with a rifle slung over his shoulder.
As the two storylines begin to mesh, reality skews, men and women we thought we knew either don't exist, exist as something else, or are strictly symbols (including a janitor who plays a vital role). The fascination the viewer will feel at the realizations of what is coming will shock, delight and sink their heart. Yes, it's THAT good.
The visuals are what will initially draw you in. You'll be asking yourself "Why?" many times: Why is the city so muted? Why is he wearing a mask? Why are these religious fanatics chasing him? If you pay close attention, everything is answered in one final scene which, in itself, reveals amazing storytelling.
I can't stress enough how closely everything is linked in the film and how paying attention reaps great benefits in the end. Even the names of the characters (Preest, The Individual, Wormsnakes, Pastor Bone) all have relevance.
Made on a paltry $12 million budget, the movie feels much more expensive and expansive. Sadly, it did not get a wide release and suffered because of it. Not many people have ever heard of it. I know I never had until a friend I work with mentioned it. But I'm glad he pointed me in the right direction. This one's a hidden gem. And it's so original that you'll wonder which genre you're watching. I'm still wondering!