Daniel Isn't Real
daniel isn't real | adam egypt mortimer | brian deleeum | patrick schwarzenegger | miles robbins | sasha lane | thriller | united states | mary stuart masterson | hannah marks | psychological | supernatural | andrew ayala | nightmares film festival | nff
Film: Daniel Isn’t Real
Director: Adam Egypt Mortimer
Writer: Brian DeLeeuw and Adam Egypt Mortimer
Starring: Patrick Schwarzenegger, Miles Robbins and Sasha Lane
This was a film that I heard about when I wrote an article for a site about it getting distribution and how well it did a festival. The concept was definitely intriguing and I was excited when the Nightmares Film Festival got it for its Ohio premiere, so I made sure when it kicked off the second day that I was in attendance. The synopsis is a troubled college freshman, Luke (Miles Robbins), suffers a violent family trauma and resurrects his childhood imaginary friend Daniel (Patrick Schwarzenegger) to help him cope.
This film actually starts inside of a coffee shop. John Thigpen (Daniel Marconi) comes in and starts to shoot the place up. It shifts to a house where Luke (Griffin Robert Faulkner) is a boy and he’s sad. His parents are arguing and he decides to go for a walk. He comes to the coffee shop and notices a boy standing next to him, a young Daniel (Nathan Chandler Reid). They go off and play until Claire (Mary Stuart Masterson) comes to get him. Luke asks if Daniel can come and she agrees, just humoring him.
Things take a dark turn though. His parents get a divorce and Daniel doesn’t like that Claire and Luke are close. Daniel gives him pills to give to his mother in a smoothie and it almost kills her. Luke is then forced to lock Daniel away in a dollhouse.
We then shift into the future. Luke is a loner and struggling in college. He’s still close to his mother, but she has had a mental break. Luke is seeing a psychiatrist Dr. Cornelius Braun (Chukwudi Iwuji). He wants Luke to open up. In doing this, he releases Daniel. This changes his personality and he meets an artist Cassie (Sasha Lane) as well as a girl at a party, Sophie (Hannah Marks).
The problem though is that Daniel pushes him to do darker and darker things. He tries to find a way to stop him, but we soon see that Daniel might not actually be just in his head and there could be something much worse behind what he is.
Not to play my hand too early, but I loved this film. This one actually flirted the line with things being all in his head or being supernatural, but the progression of this had me hooked. We establish Luke and Daniel as children, what their lives at that time is like, but we subtle hints that Luke has some trouble at home that he’s working through. It does seem like he is just a troubled boy who has created another persona within him to cope with that. I never really had an imaginary friend, but I definitely talk things out to myself so I get it.
From there though we are given Daniel could possibly be real as well. I’m not going to go into spoilers here, but I will say that Cassie does a painting of Luke and there’s a shadow in it. What I like about this is that it starts down the path of him trying to figure out if he’s just schizophrenic. There’s also a history of mental illness in the family, so that is just another layer. This does remind me a bit of Dreamcatcher as well, in that we get to see inside of the mind where there are different rooms. I think that’s a great way to show us things than to just tell us. This unfolds a back-story that I absolutely loved as well.
That shifts me to the pacing of this one, which I thought was really good as well. We jump right into this one with an opening scene that was shocking and from there we establish our lead as a child. We get an idea that he has an imaginary friend. From there we see that he has to get rid of him, in a great way I might add, after a horrible thing he does and from there we get into the main story. I don’t think it ever lingered or drug, I was trying to piece together as we went and the mystery there was really good. The ending I thought was fitting for what the rest of the film established and it comes almost full circle as well.
As for the acting here, it was fitting for what we needed in this movie. I didn’t recognize either star, aside from the adult Daniel being the son of Arnold Schwarzengger. What I really liked about him was the arrogance that he brought to the character. It really set it apart for me. Playing off him was Robbins, who I think actually did an even better job. He comes off as timid and unsure of himself. Once Daniel is released though, we see that gives him confidence. The best though is when he lets Daniel take over the personality and he mimics that other character on point. It was pretty amazing and it’s funny that he’s the son of Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon, since both stars have famous lineage. Lane and Marks are interesting in the change of Luke as they’re quite different. Both really help move along the story as well Masterson. The rest of the cast definitely rounded this out for what was needed.
That will take me to the effects of this film, which I thought were really good. What is interesting is that the opening shot is of what looks like a solar system in space. We come back to this a couple times, which when revealed was great. It also looks beautiful. There are some interesting shots with Daniel not being seen and just ignored while he’s talking to Luke. The blood and effects of these things look good as well. Everything did seem to be practical from what I could tell. We do get some creature effects a few times, which I was on board with. It was shot very well also.
Now with that said, if you couldn’t tell from this review, I loved this movie. I thought that it tackles an idea that sometimes in films make or break it for me. How this handled it was on point and it sucked me right in. I like the idea of incorporating the supernatural along with mental illness, as it is something we don’t fully understand and is quite terrifying when it doesn’t get properly treated. The acting really gets this across along with the pacing, which was good in building the story along with the tension to a fitting ending. The soundtrack works for what they needed and definitely helped to set the mood for scenes. I also commend the actors for ignoring Daniel as well as Luke who is trying to listen to both at the same time. It really worked for me and I loved this film. It is definitely one of the best I’ve seen for sure. I would recommend this everyone.
My Rating: 10 out of 10