A DIFFERENT MAN

★★★★

SEBASTIAN STAN TRANSFORMS

SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW
By Chris Dos Santos
10th June 2024

Neurofibromatosis is a genetic condition where non-cancerous tumours grow in the nervous system. This can either be inherited or occur spontaneously in early development. It can happen anywhere in the body, but the most identifiable location is on the face, with the most famous example being Joseph Merrick, whose life was portrayed in 'The Elephant Man'. There is no cure for it, but 'A Different Man' poses the question of what could happen to someone if there was.

The film follows Edward (Sebastian Stan, 'I, Tonya', 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier'), who has neurofibromatosis. He lives alone and is very reserved due to his condition. He signs up for an experimental drug that can fix his face. It works but he keeps it a secret, leaving his old life behind, starting a new one under the name Guy. Before his transformation he formed a bond with his neighbour Ingrid (Renate Reinsve, 'The Worst Person in the World'), who has now written a play based on their interactions, and Guy auditions for the role. Oswald (Adam Pearson, 'Under the Skin'), a man living with the same condition, also auditions for the role and Guy becomes jealous as Oswald oozes the confidence he never had before his transformation.

In the purest sense, this is a dark comedy. There is something uncomfortable about laughing at someone with a physical disability, but that is the purpose of the film - to make you feel uncomfortable and question your own ideas of self-image. It really juggles the serious and lighter tones of the story in a brilliant way. Edward is a man whose self-image is important to him, and when he gets to look "normal" expects everything to work out, but when compared to Oswald, a man who doesn't let his looks dictate his world view, Edward's world view comes crumbling down.

In the purest sense, this is a dark comedy. There is something uncomfortable about laughing at someone with a physical disability, but that is the purpose of the film - to make you feel uncomfortable and question your own ideas of self-image.

Sebastian Stan, the man that you are, is a knockout here. He is so riveting to watch, and no matter what strange turn Edward takes, you understand every beat. The juxtaposition between his and Adam Pearson's performance is truly genius, and it's delightful to watch the two play off each other.

'A Different Man' is an extremely engaging and funny watch. Stan is fantastic, and this is sure to mark a turning point in his career. Its journey of self-image is sure to be relatable for many viewers, and it's one of 2024's most surprising films.

Looking for more Sydney Film Festival reviews? Click here to check out our collection of this year's highlights.
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