Manageable Monkey, 2023
Alex Lehmann / Chris Dowling and Alex Lehmann
📷 : Licensed from Shutterstock
Movies and TV shows with low-key characters
Movies and TV shows about illness or set in hospitals or similar medical institutions
I must disclose my bias against science fiction cinema up-front. I am just not feeling this genre. But I will admit I do indulge my family on occasion and happen upon one, two, maybe three that I have enjoyed over the years: The Empire Strikes Back – I like Yoda; Alien – gross, but good; the original television series, V – good suspense. None of these matters, though, since despite Acidman’s synopsis alluding to sci-fi, the film has very little to do with extraterrestrials, UFOs or any other interplanetary objects – fortunately.
Acidman is about the reuniting of a daughter, Maggie, with her long lost father, Loyd. Close and inseparable when she was a child, the two became estranged when Loyd, a successful engineer, suddenly left the family and never made contact again. After a long search, she arrives at his home - an isolated mobile trailer with the word “Acidman” spray-painted across the window in orange. She finds him nearby with his dog, Migo, looking a bit annoyed.
Kind, but begrudgingly hospitable, Loyd shows her around his home, including the unkempt room where she can stay. During her visit, Maggie learns of her father’s fascination, or rather, ongoing communication, with extraterrestrials that manifest as lights in the sky at night. Seeing him super-excited that they care enough about him and the planet Earth to reach out and watch over him, Maggie, played by Dianna Agron (The Family, I am Number Four), indulges him.
Throughout Acidman, Loyd, played by Thomas Haden Church (Spider-Man: No Way Home, Sideways), repeatedly asks Maggie “Why are you here?” Her reply is always a loving and consistent, “I told you, I came to see you, to check up on you.”
Loyd occasionally zones out in the middle of the two talking, and at these moments Maggie says, “Dad? Dad?” and waits patiently for him to reconnect. Realizing there is a problem, she offers to take him to see someone. But he ignores her and asks once again, “Why are you here?”
We fervently believe that no one knows us better than we know ourselves. But how often have our parents proved us wrong? While something is amiss with Loyd and he has abandoned the world to create one that is better suited for him, he suspects there is a purpose to his daughter’s visit and that it has little if anything to do with him. Thus, he persists in his question to Maggie, “Why are you here?”
Several themes run throughout this film. One of which is the tendency to collapse all mental illness into the monolithic view that they all lead to unpredictable, dangerous behavior. Something seems to be awry with Loyd but at one point, the “townies” harass him at his home, and he pulls out his shotgun and shoots several rounds into the air to scare them away. While this frightens Maggie, who perceives this as Loyd shooting at the kids, Loyd asserts and rightfully so, “I didn’t shoot at them. I shot in the air to scare them off.”
Another is young adults’ preoccupation with being or becoming like their parents. Maggie berates her father for leaving her and the family and fears she could do such a thing, as if it is a hereditary trait. It brings to mind a theme in the 2023 film Saint Omer where a central character, Rama, expressed concerns about being like her mother who was emotionally detached from her. As well in the lighthearted 2007 movie, This Christmas, where Ma’Dere so feared her teenage child would be like her wayward husband and saxophonist that she refused to support her son in his musical pursuits. Maggie, in Acidman, carries the baggage of her father and conflates it with DNA.
Yet another theme in the film is the imploring upon people to begin relationships where people happen to be in their lives. Maggie wants to connect with her father but struggles to find a receptor — a place to plug in or common ground — largely due to the impediment his mental illness presents. He is unavailable to her in the usual ways — as a confidant for example as he was when she was a child, or as a source of comfort through her struggles and disappointments. After a knock down drag out fight, she realizes that to see her father and to have the relationship she desires with him, she must not only accept where he is in his life. She must also meet him and deal with him in that space.
I did not expect to like this movie, but the strong messages overwhelmed me. Consider making contact with Acidman if it seems like your cup of tea.