I’m living with this weird sense of disquiet, because 2018 is going to be dominated by superheroes. In of itself this doesn’t bother me – the MCU in particular has provided so many treats over the past decade. But I’m finding it hard to get excited about anything else I’m seeing on the horizon.
One of the few breaks in the cloud was originally produced back in 2016. Jon Weinberg’s Funeral Day has finally seen the light of day, with a theatrical run which began in Los Angeles on June 1st and worldwide DVD and VOD releases on the 12th.
This little indie film has proved something of a relief, because I’m doubtful that we’ll see much like it over the coming months. Essentially this film follows a single, neurotic mess of a man (Scott, played by Weinberg himself) literally running around LA in a desperate attempt to get his life back on track.
His quest for redemption is inspired by the recent death of a close friend from cancer. Much to the disappointment and anger of his remaining best friend Chris (Tygh Runyan), Scott refuses to attend the funeral. He’s convinced that he either has melanoma or testicular cancer, possibly both; but he refuses to visit a doctor; opting instead to change his life in a single day.
His quest sees him run into a cast of strange characters, who are all uncannily in tune with his situation. An arrogant yet desperate estate agent, a hippy who’s all too willing to check another man’s balls, a waitress with a unique approach to victim support and a couple of doctors with a very specific fetish. These are just a few of the people who help Scott come to terms with his situation and what he needs to do in order to truly make the most of his life.
Testicular cancer is a prominent concern of Funeral Day. It’s the albatross around his neck, though we never learn whether or not he actually has it. But confronting one’s mortality is an important part of all our lives, especially when there’s even an outside chance that your end could be nigh.
At this point I should note that this film really resonated with me – it gave me considerable pause for thought, especially during a sequence where Scott is drifting through a public park, apparently able to read people’s minds (though obviously he’s merely projecting onto them). He encounters a nine year old boy who “offers” him a very unique and powerful insight: that there’s a difference between changing your circumstances and changing your life.
Attempting to get back with your ex, quitting your job or buying a new apartment – these are all superficial actions with limited potential for real change. We need to dig deeper, even if this means facing down ugly and mortifying things we would rather avoid. It’s a simple message, in many ways a self-evident one; but Funeral Day expresses it rather potently.
Production wise, the camerawork, editing and sound design is very simple and straightforward. Funeral Day is a character piece, hinging on the writing and performances, which, for the most part, are pretty solid. Chris, in particular, is well fleshed out despite his fleeting appearances. His disappointment with Scott, his anger and senses of concern and loss are neatly bundled up. Both characters are in mourning and coping with their loss in wildly different ways. Chris is burdened with being the strong one, and Runyan does a great job of invoking this, while Weinberg is incredibly sharp as the pitiful, yet relatable and weirdly likeable lead.
One thing I tend to do is imagine where any new movie I see would’ve ended up on my previous year’s top ten list. Funeral Day would’ve made the cut for 2017, and could’ve ranked quite highly. It won’t be to everyone’s taste, but it has heart and moments of black comedy which do land. It’s fascinating for the most part and the pacing doesn’t get bogged down.
If you’re interested in something which takes you way off of the beaten path, then I certainly recommend it.