Paddleton Mark Duplass Ray Romano

Year: 2019
Director(s): Alex Lehmann
Writer(s): Alex Lehmann, Mark Duplass
Region of Origin: US
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Rating: n/a
Digital, Color, 89 mins

Synopsis: An unlikely friendship between two misfit neighbors becomes an unexpectedly emotional journey when the younger man is diagnosed with terminal cancer. (Source)

As someone who was holding my dad’s hand when he breathed that final breath, Paddleton is a film that nails the pain and heartache of letting go. Death is inevitable, but unlike most films about terminal cancer, Alex Lehmann’s latest is more about what isn’t said than what is. Centering solely on two best friends, Lehmann and co-writer/star Mark Duplass deliver a bromance that transcends an all-too-brief runtime. Keeping things loose, this quotable look at a friendship’s last days is founded on honesty and grace. Mark Duplass and Ray Romano are jaw-dropping, leaping off the screen to embody ideas that we don’t want to confront but are mesmerized by. This is an absolute must see, brimming with maturity and disarming wit.

The setup is simple. After Michael (Mark Duplass) is diagnosed with a terminal illness, he opts for euthanasia. With the help of his doctor, he’s prescribed pills that will end things before the pain gets too difficult to bear. Alongside him is his friend, Andy (Ray Romano), who, of course is heartbroken by Michael’s decision but respecting of it. Michael’s asked Andy to be there every step of the way. Before the time comes, the two make the most of their days together, going on an impromptu road trip and watching kung-fu films while downing an endless supply of pizza. As they get closer to the inevitable end, the they each struggle with uncertainty and the idea of permanence, but remain each other’s constant.

Lehmann’s film is nothing if not an intimate portrait of friendship first and foremost. This is a candid look at two inseparable friends and what matters when all is said and done. In essence, this is two men against the world and nothing else matters. Thriving through the mundane, the film’s lack of flash or glorified hallmark moments is both devastating and refreshing. It allows these two actors’ charm to shine above the dark subject matter, with understated humor that punctuates complexity. Though there is a sadness beneath each scene, the central relationship exudes a warmth that is overwhelming. This macro focus pays off especially in the film’s final act, exposing the frailty and fleeting nature of existence, and how happiness is truly inextricable with sadness.

Paddleton Netflix Mark Duplass Ray Romano

Without a doubt, the film owes much of what makes it work to its two, vulnerable stars. As Michael, Duplass is pragmatic and real. You can tell that there’s a lot going on beneath the surface, and Duplass is able to say so much without really saying it. Despite being the one facing inevitability, he is the duo’s silent strength. As Andy, Romano is along for the ride, treading a line between denial and acceptance. Through Romano, we get a piercing look at how these extreme opposites work together and how they change us from the inside out. Needless to say, Duplass and Romano are incredible together, rendering fly-on-the-wall sincerity.

Ultimately, there is nothing cynical in Lehmann’s film. To the heartbreaking meaning behind its name, to the performances that anchor it, this film is a gift. Its simplicity makes it soar and its ability to make us laugh amidst the grief is powerful. This film pretty much leveled me. If you’ve ever lost anyone, Paddleton is honest catharsis, capturing feelings that are impossible to put into words.