I was an only child growing up and by the time I reached that typically social age of childhood I was already hopelessly weird and not just used to being alone but more inclined to be so. Not much changed as I got older – I got married at 20 and divorced a few years later. I’ve struggled through my relationships, romantic and familial, and have always assumed (and maybe even hoped) I’d end up where I started – alone. Until I had my daughter. If not for her, I would have given up long ago and resigned to some cabin in the woods where I would’ve done little other than drink coffee, smoke cigarettes, write cheesy poetry, and enjoy the pleasure of my own company. But luckily for us, my girl and I have each other, and I’m now a relatively upstanding and productive member of society, fit in (passably, anyway) to most social situations and live out my former fantasies vicariously through films like A Fantastic Fear of Everything.
Jack (Simon Pegg) is an accidental children’s author and, by attempting to shift his writing focus to more serious work, has become an utter disaster of a human being. Jack’s obsessive serial killer research for his new project “Decades of Death” has awakened and amplified almost every possible irrational fear that his subconscious has to offer and when an actual serial killer starts attacking victims in Jack’s own neighbourhood, he can no longer even walk from one end of his apartment to the other without screaming at his own shadow.
Jack’s a mess, but he’s a mess with talent, and his agent calls to inform him that BBC is interested in his work and that he must attend a dinner meeting with Harvey Humphries, the head of scripts. Not only does Jack fear leaving his apartment, he also fears laundromats and so has no clean clothes to wear. I can’t remember ever before seeing a film character attempt to substitute an oven for a washing machine, but I do remember laughing my ass off when I saw Jack do it. I also remember feeling achingly sad for his character. It’s a scene endearing in its absurdity, as determination battles paranoia, with Jack helpless on the sidelines of his own life. He is out of control and out of touch and can hardly even function, but he knows he should be able to do this. He wants to be able to do this. Naturally, the clothes are destroyed in the oven and Jack must face his fears of both going outside and visiting the laundromat, or sacrifice this potential second (and likely final) chance at success.
As Jack pitifully attempts to face his irrational fears, some actually rational fears present themselves, and he must make the choice to either succumb or conquer, give in or persevere, delve into his own psyche and face his demons or allow them to devour him from the inside out.
A Fantastic Fear of Everything was silly – a scrawny Simon Pegg wearing a bath towel while rapping along to an old mix tape with a carving knife superglued to his hand would make anyone laugh – but it wasn’t stupid. I recently rewatched Paul (yeah, that alien one) and while watching A Fantastic Fear, I couldn’t believe it was the same guy. This film is 100% worth watching for Pegg’s performance alone. It’s also beautifully shot and feels more like a live play than a film. It gives off a very artsy vibe but not in that annoying pretentious way. Not only is it also brilliantly acted, but its literal and metaphorical messages leave the viewer with plenty to ponder afterwards.
Though my daydreams of being a wildly successful recluse are behind me, mostly, I enjoy getting inside the head of a wacky introverted writer on the brink from time to time, and I got exactly what I was after in the mind of Jack. It also reminded me of all the reasons I’m glad to be where I am now, and that being alone isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be. I may not have it all together quite yet, but at least I can go to the laundromat without crying about it.