Mountain review Jeff Goldblum

Year: 2019
Director(s): Rick Alverson
Writer(s): Rick Alverson
Region of Origin: US
Rating: n/a
Color, 106 mins

Synopsis: The story of a young man who, after losing his father, goes to work with a doctor specializing in lobotomies and therapies. (Source)

From the very start, you immediately realize that there’s more to The Mountain than most any other experience you’ll decide to brave. It’s a period piece lined with eccentric characters, a dreamlike pace and hypnotic visuals that are proudly bizarre. This isn’t a film that comes to us and wants to meet us in the middle. It pulls us into its grasp and we either stick with it or are intimidated by its impenetrable outer shell. Still, those that stick with director Rick Alverson’s latest will find that it has a very specific method to its madness. Its a small film with big observations, despite how vague or fleeting they feel. When it’s all over, it’s also a film we don’t want to stop thinking about. 

Set in the 1950s, the story centers around Andy (Tye Sheridan). He lives a pretty simple life, working at an ice rink where his dad teaches figure skating. After Andy’s dad suddenly passes away, he’s approached and befriended by Dr. Wally Fiennes (Jeff Goldblum), an eccentric lobotomist and therapist. In truth, Fiennes had been familiar with the family, in the past treating Andy’s very mother. Wally puts a camera in Andy’s hand, and the young boy instantly begins documenting Wally’s work. The pair strike up a singular and tenuous relationship. With public scrutiny suddenly closing in on Wally’s increasingly questionable methods, the doctor and Andy embark on a road trip that will change their lives. 

As mentioned, Alverson’s film is an unsettling but fascinating delicacy. There’s a different language at play, not just narratively, but even in the way Alverson captures social relationships, repressed feelings and how we can sometimes say nothing and everything at the same time. It’s this penchant for observation that makes the darkness at the film’s center feel inviting yet dangerous. On the outset, the film never bows to our expectation. Long stretches of silence are intercut with stunning, otherworldly visions. At first operating like a film about grief, the story eventually transitions into a road trip and then something else all together. Underneath it all, Alverson captures our primal search for meaning, acceptance and belonging, with each of his characters so monumentally different, that these ideas mean something new in each scene. 

Mountain Jeff Goldblum Tye Sheridan

It’s no surprise that the most accessible part of the film is its performances. Tye Sheridan’s Andy perfectly pulls us into a silent grief and listless existence. Still, there is a warmth behind his tormented actions, and Sheridan’s restraint speaks volumes. On the other hand, this is one of Jeff Goldblum’s best performances. It’s a welcome role to the actor’s more hefty fare, proving again that he’s not just a meme. Goldblum channels his idiosyncrasies into a character that can’t separate ambition from ego. He’s also extremely sensitive despite a cold exterior, able to be suave and charming but cold and apathetic. It’s a sheer pleasure to see Goldblum reach down for something undeniably dark. In the film’s third act, Denis Lavant and Hannah Gross enlist the doctor for his services and send the film into new territory. Both Levant and Gross leave an indelible mark that can’t be denied. 

In the end, the film comes as close as it can to grasping for hope, showing a subjectivity towards the matter that feels as painful as it does cathartic. In the world that Alverson has depicted, this compromise is not without a profound pain. Amidst the film’s portrait of existential struggle and unmistakably human performances, is a story that doesn’t just cling to a simple, solitary idea, but rather each person’s contradicting, oft-times violent definitions of grace and mercy.

SG