No Such Thing

A real-life monster lives in a remote region in Iceland. He breathes fire, has two horns, and reptilian skin. The locals are deathly afraid of him, and offer him up sacrifices and booze. So goes the premise of No Such Thing, the new movie from indie favorite writer/director Hal Hartley (Kimono, The New Math). This is Hartley's examination of good and evil, and a satire on modern media. It also moves at its own place, and is probably a little too talky and a little too long for its own good. Still, there are a few bright moments in an otherwise so-so movie. Beatrice (Sarah Polley, The Claim, Guinevere), a reporter from America, wants to understand him and to help him. The Monster (Robert John Burke, Triples, Somewhere in the City) wants nothing to do with her, but the fact that she is not afraid of him intrigues her.

Beatrice makes the trek to Iceland after the Monster killed a film crew from her station. Her fiancee was on that crew. Her boss (Helen Mirren, Last Orders, Gosford Park) wants Beatrice to bring the Monster back for the ratings it will bring the station. She has little care for the welfare of Beatrice, the Monster, or everybody else. Beatrice, on the other hand, has no bad thoughts in her body. She wishes goodwill towards everybody, and believes that everybody is capable of good. Basically, Hartley wrote it such that the kindness of Beatrice is the only thing that can coax the Monsters into the open. The Monster is sarcastic, caustic, and generally a jerk to be around.

No Such Thing takes a long time to get to its point. For one, Beatrice and the Monster do not even meet until well into the movie. A series of bizarre happenings continually delay Beatrice's efforts to go to Iceland. It's here that Hartley's satire is strongest, with his odd look at safety and the world around Beatrice. Once she actually goes on her way, another, even more random occurrence happens to delay her even further. Everything is fairly arbitrary, and it's a miracle that Beatrice actually makes it to the Monster. To do so, she needs to drive, ride a horse, and finally hike out to the edge of Iceland. Once she brings the Monster back, No Such Thing goes in another odd direction, mocking celebrity status. The main point Hartley is trying to make comes out only at the very end in a monologue, and by then it is a little too late.

The main three performances in No Such Thing are very different, and work to varying degrees. The one thing they all have in common is that they are somewhat bland. For Mirren, this is a weak role that follows two especially strong ones (she garnered an Oscar nomination for Gosford Park). She displays some moments of faux compassion, but mostly she plays the stereotypical television executive whoring for ratings through sensationalism. Polley is capable of showing much complex emotion, but her Beatrice is subdued almost to the point of boring. She is the goodie-two-shoes. Burke, just by his role, has the most depth. There is a lot more to his character than most of the people realize, and Hartley is able to bring this out slowly.

Mongoose Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 41 minutes, Rated R for language and brief violence.

Back to Movies