REVIEW: Crumbs (2015)

Candy (Daniel Tadesse) lives in the ruins of a bowling alley with his girlfriend Birdy (Selam Tesfayie). When the huge orbiting spacecraft above them appears to re-activate, Candy embarks on a crusade to find out what it means and – believing himself to be an alien – get a ride to his home planet. His journey takes him through a post-apocalyptic world of mysterious strangers and corrupted pop culture.

Miguel Llansó’s 2015 arthouse short feature is going to either delight or frustrate audiences, without much I suspect of a middle ground between them. It is a deliberately surreal film, mostly consisting of a string of encounters on the road between Candy and a succession of eccentrics, but it is also regularly and unexpectedly amusing. It is well performed, and while it meanders around in a slightly aimless fashion it remains your only chance to watch a post-apocalyptic science fiction film by a Spanish director shot in Ethiopia with Finnish funding. Sometimes it is worth watching something this unique just to experience cinema outside of a comfort zone.

Llansó depicts a strange world in which a deserted city is sparsely populated with various physically and emotionally damaged individuals. We never learn what happened to bring the world to the state that it is in, but almost all cultural knowledge is lost. Candy and Birdy devoutly worship a framed photograph of basketballer Michael Jordan. One character wears a plastic figurine of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle as a protective charm. Throughout the film people take their personal pop culture items of worship to a pawnbroker, who persuasively tries to take each one of them to town with offensively low-ball offers.

Daniel Tadesse is a riveting presence as Candy. He possesses an earnest quality in character, devoutly believing in the random charms and icons that he carries with him on his journey. He is an actor with a physical difference, and while the film commendably does not make his physicality part of the story he certainly uses that same physicality to give Candy a distinctive personality and style. Selam Tesfayie is just as effective as Birdy. Left behind in a creepy bowling alley, she is haunted by its sudden bursts of light and sound – the electricity keeps turning on and off – and the mysterious voice coming from the alley’s underground workings. Her performance is heartfelt and delicately played. Based on their work here, both actors deserve long careers.

Llansó’s direction bears a lot of similarities to Catalan filmmaker Sergio Caballero, whose 2014 feature The Distance was dominated by a similar mixture of foreboding surreality and straight-faced absurdity. Technically the film is shot in a straightforward and unobtrusive manner, with some particularly decent low-budget visual effects depicting the ominous spaceship that hangs in mid-air, gently humming. Like Caballero’s film, it is important not to go into Crumbs expecting conventional narratives and easily digested answers. There is a wonderful sense of play about the film. It knows it’s having fun, and invites the viewer to join in.

For Australian readers: Crumbs is currently available on the film streaming service Stan.

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