Hank Thompson (Paul Dano) is stranded on an Island way out to sea, he is about to hang himself off a rock before he spots a corpse (played by Daniel Radcliffe) has washed up on the shore. The corpse appears to be totally dead and motionless (which is what corpses do I suppose) apart from the fact it appears to be farting. These farts are quite powerful and create a special kind of energy that can propel Hank great distances. Soon enough, the corpse seems to come to life, and the two form a strange bond as they both on an extraordinary adventure.
People have often been crying out for an original script, especially with all the sequels, reboots, and remakes in the current era. Very few films have a special uniqueness of Swiss Army Man. Directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, this frankly bizarre drama-comedy has so much more going for it than simply being a film about a flatulent corpse. The flatulent corpse bit is certainly the selling point of the film, and a way for people to try and explain the film’s uniqueness but the humour raised from this farting corpse is perhaps the least noteworthy thing about the film (there are other gags about erections and masturbating which land much better). The first few minutes get the film to a bad start because you do begin to worry that the entire film is going to be like this.
However, the film turns out to be a quite poignant and moving discussion of relationships, loneliness, and depression. Apart from the corpse, Paul Dano’s Hank Thompson is completely alone, but it’s his loneliness which is, perhaps, most crippling to his mental wellbeing. Hank is arguably a man more isolated in a busy city than he is on a deserted island (which is a metaphor for how isolated he feels from society). His loneliness is mostly compounded by the unreturned affections by a girl on a bus and his father, among others.
Perhaps because of his loneliness he imagines, and acts out, all these impossible scenarios where he meets the girl of his dreams and they engage in this perfect whirlwind of a romance. Naturally this fantastical story never materialises and Hank never has that impossible romance he yearns for. Hank finds it difficult to mature out of this phase because of his inability to have such a relationship. What ensues is a never ending circle of impossible dreams and endless disappointment where he can’t grow out of his emotional immunity when it comes to building romantic relationships.
To sell this film as a film about a farting corpse does the film a disservice, even if Hank’s interactions with the dead body are bizarre as they are humorous (it can do a great number of things, hence the movie’s title). Both Daniel Radcliffe (branching out impressively from his Potter days) and Paul Dano are incredible and the novelty of a farting corpse is eye brow raising, but this deeply layered film about loneliness, social isolation, and being able to express who you are has so much more going for it than being a film that can be summed up as being about ‘a farting corpse’.