Phoenix Film Festival Spotlight: Alev Aydin's Lonely Boy

Everyone copes with tragedy differently. Actor Alev Aydin wrote Lonely Boy after experiencing the effects brain cancer had on his mother, which resulted in symptoms similar to schizophrenia. His film, in which he also plays the lead as Franky, explores the hardship of having that mental illness while trying to find love in the city.

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On the surface, Lonely Boy seemed torn directly from indie favorites like Lars and the Real Girl with I Heart Huckabees. The uniqueness of the film's script and plot is where it distinguished itself. Without pretension, the characters speak openly to one another in a realistic manner, even though some of those characters are just in Franky's mind.

After a few nagging visits from his incredibly concerned sister Betsy (Melora Walters) and a blind date gone horribly wrong, Franky's sure he'll spend life with only his hallucinated companions by his side. When Franky meets Alex (Natalie Distler), a grocery store clerk with a spunky, spontaneous edge, it's hard to tell if she's really there or just another elaborate delusion formed by his psychosis.

While some of the emotion seems forced in certain scenes, the core of Franky's story, including his dark family history, is truly heart-wrenching. Aydin nails his role as the tick-ridden male anti-hero on the verge of a serious mental breakdown after he refuses to take his medication. However, the quirkiness of the characters combined with the film's themes make it confusing to know whether you should be laughing in certain scenes, as some of the audience experienced odd outbursts in non-comical moments.

Walters' performance was inconsistent, at some times being convincingly distressed and at others she seemed detached and out of her role. Plus, her scenes with the film's psychiatrist and mental interventionist were a jarring, stale interjection in a story that would have operated better without them.

As odd nouveau rom-coms go, Lonely Boy certainly fits in with the Silver Linings Playbook genre, but with a somehow even darker side. The connection between Franky and Alex, aside from Franky's psychotic episodes, was the most authentic part of the film. Unfortunately, their story was only mildly hashed-out between everything else the film was trying to accomplish. While first-time movie writer Aydin's story was great, it seemed director Dale Fabrigar just didn't know what to do with it.

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