We all have a best friend. Someone with whom we can have endless hours of fun, someone who knows your biggest secret and darkest fear and someone that makes you smile instantly. It might be someone who you just met or have known for many years now.
Who is it? Well, for Luke it’s Daniel, a friend he has since he was very little. There’s one tiny difference between your best friend and Daniel. Daniel only exists in Luke’s mind, in the novel “In This Way I Was Saved” by Brian DeLeeuw and now also in “Daniel Isn’t Real”.
This latest film from director Adam Egypt Mortimer (“Some Kind of Hate”) takes you on a devilishly dark, entertaining and psychedelic journey.
Life hasn’t been easy for the young Luke (Griffin Robert Faulkner). Coming from an abusive family, he feels lost and lonely. It goes from bad to worse when his mother (Mary Stuart Masterson) is becoming mentally ill due to the abuse.
Luke is trying to cope with the tragic events and he’s finding consolation and support at his best friend Daniel (Nathan Chandler Reid). There’s just one thing: Daniel is Luke’s imaginary friends and when Luke’s mother sees drastic changes in the behaviour of her son, she demands Luke to lock Daniel up in a dollhouse. Luke does it as he wants to be a good son.
Many years pass by. Luke’s mother her mental state has been declining and it has become incredibly hard for Luke (Miles Robbins) to handle it. After consulting a shrink, he goes back to the one friend that always knows how to get Luke back on his feet: Daniel (Patrick Schwarzenegger).
Luke decides to release Daniel from the dollhouse in the hope that he can positively change his life. Time didn’t stand still in that dollhouse and Daniel became a self-confident and manipulative young man who will do anything to help the insecure, unpopular and unsteady Luke.
At first, it goes incredibly well. Luke becomes the popular kid, discovers his passion for photography and is being noticed by women. Life is looking even brighter when he finds Cassie (Sasha Lane), his new girlfriend. Where Luke goes, there’s Daniel and so there’s always literally a dark side lurking over Luke’s shoulders.
The more advice Luke asks from Daniel, the more Luke is losing himself into Daniel’s dark side. How long can Luke be his sweet, innocent and loving self before the dark, rebellious and dangerous Daniel takes over completely?
Yes, if you’ve read DeLeeuw’s novel, then you, of course, know how the relationship between Luke and Daniel will develop. We have to admit that “Daniel Isn’t Real” might not be everyone’s taste but it certainly has some very compelling elements to it.
The most fascinating element is without a doubt the extremely captivating chemistry between Robbins and Schwarzenegger. They both portray the light and darkness and the kindness and evil sides of their characters immensely well.
Robbins (“Halloween”, “Blockers”) puts on an extremely eclectic performance. At first, he’s wonderful as the lost, broken and emotionally drenched young man looking for love and his purpose in life. The more the film reaches its climax, the darker, mysterious and ‘rock ‘n roll’ his performance becomes.
That scene in which he puts on that dark red suit is just too good not to mention. Opposite Robbins, we see the even more ravishing Schwarzenegger (“Midnight Sun”, “Go North”), who’s just phenomenal as the deviously dangerous Daniel. He doesn’t only bring an even darker vibe to this movie but also the humour and the wittiness “Daniel Isn’t Real” deserves.
There are strong supporting performances from Masterson and Lane. Masterson (“As You Are”, “Skin”) is very captivating as the abused wife as well as the concerned and loving mother who’s the only one who knows what’s going on with her son.
Lane (“After Everything”, “The Miseducation of Cameron Post”) puts on a wonderful and enjoyable performance as the art-lover and caring Cassie. The scenes between Lane and Robbins are certainly the most emotional ones, especially towards that thrilling end. Of course, we also have to mention Faulkner (“It Comes At Night”) and Reid who are both adorable as the playful and happy young boys.
The performances are all very eye-catching and we can say the same thing about the cinematography by Lyle Vincent (“Thoroughbreds”, “Urge”). That very first scene is an omen about what’s to come in the rest of this film: Thrilling and head-twisting scenes that make you doubt everything you see.
It might all seem predictable at first but when you take a closer look, more secretive elements are coming to the foreground. The special effects team also deserves as much credit as possible and especially for giving life to spectacular and horrific demons. Their designs are truly sinister, lurid and captivating.
Last but not least, there’s also the stunning work from both the editor Brett W. Bachman (“Mandy”, “The Party’s Just Beginning”) as well as Clark, who chose the music for this film. The editing work is done flawlessly and gives “Daniel Isn’t Real” the fast pact it deserves while the score ensures the intense and immersive vibe of this movie.
Both the cast and crew might be unknown but we’re sure that after “Daniel Isn’t Real” is being released, this will soon change. Sometimes this movie might seem a little bit all over the place but thanks to the strong cinematography, stunning visual effects, and the top-notch chemistry between Robbins and Schwarzenegger you will be able to handle it perfectly.
“Daniel Isn’t Real” will be released in UK Cinemas the 7th of February and on Blu-ray and Digital HD on the 10th of February.
7th February 2020
Adam Egypt Mortimer
THE QUICK SELL
A troubled college freshman, Luke, suffers a violent family trauma. He then resurrects his charismatic childhood imaginary friend Daniel to help him cope, not realizing how dangerous Daniel is.