Griff the Invisible: Berlin Review

A superhero wannabe fights the forces of loneliness and alienation in this uneven Aussie indie.

The Australian indie stars "True Blood" actor Ryan Kwanten and is written and directed by Leon Ford.

Australia makes a modest contribution to the growing sub-genre of everyman superhero movies with Griff the Invisible, a sweet but scattershot debut from local TV actor Leon Ford.

Ryan Kwanten (who plays a chronically shirtless lothario in True Blood) tucks his six-pack abs away to become a timid office worker who is bullied or ignored by day but transforms into a crime-fighting superhero after dark. The first clue writer-director Ford is taking a sidelong approach to comic-book mythology is that Griff’s rubber suit squeaks rather distractingly.

Griff, screening in the Generation sidebar in Berlin, opens in Australia mid-March. Local audiences may welcome a low-key deconstruction of the superhero myth trumpeted by effects-laden Hollywood blockbusters. It will struggle in the overseas marketplace, however, particularly going up against the similarly themed Super (starring Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page), which overshadowed it at the recent Toronto International Film Festival.

The titular hero is clearly not going to be invited to join The Justice League any time soon, but neither can Griff align itself with gleefully off-kilter efforts such as Kick-Ass or Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.

While the film eventually reveals itself to be a quirky little love story about two social misfits, an initially unfocused narrative and some clumsily directed fantasy missions mean it’s a good half hour before we ascertain the extent of Griff’s delusions.

Griff is the classic outsider: an oddball in a yellow raincoat whose antisocial behaviour at the shipping company where he works makes him the target of the office bully. He has no friends, and the only visitor to his neat inner-city apartment is his uber-conventional brother Tim (Patrick Brammall).

When Tim brings around his new girlfriend Melody (Maeve Dermody), a pretty eccentric who believes she can walk through walls if the atoms are aligned correctly, it becomes obvious where the perfect match lies.

Melody encourages Griff’s alter-ego exploits amid a peculiar compilation of romantic, sci-fi and tame comedic elements; heady chemistry between the two likeable leads goes some way to offset the lack of cohesion.

Ultimately, the piece is as mild as its hero, although first-timer Ford displays an amiably idiosyncratic sensibility that should be encouraged.  

Opens: In Australia on March 17
Production company: Green Park Pictures
Cast: Ryan Kwanten, Maeve Dermody, Patrick Brammall
Writer-director: Leon Ford
Producer: Nicole O’Donohue
Executive producers: Jan Chapman, Scott Meek
Director of photography: Simon Chapman
Production designer: Sophie Nash
Costume designer: Shareen Beringer
Editor: Karen Johnson
Sales: Fortissimo Films
No rating, 93 minutes