‘The Man With Four Legs’ defines human empathy by lack thereof

‘The Man With Four Legs’ defines human empathy by lack thereof

Matt Payne | Copy Editor


I was confused in deciding what type of film I was vetting myself to watch at the start of indie filmmaker Ed Christmas’ latest production, “The Man With Four Legs,” premiering at Thin Line Film Fest–or even deciding what the heck a title like that meant.

By the time the film was complete, I was still confused.

I felt many emotions toward the entire premise of the film, and as the closing scene ended and executive producer Mal Robinson finished his talk about what his team was trying to achieve with this film, I tentatively grasped my notepad, unlocked my parked car across from Campus Theatre on Oak Street, and silently sat inside for a solid 10 minutes.

And then I just decided I was sad.

“The Man With Four Legs” uncannily resembled the format of Rob McElhenney’s “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” because of its chaotic, somewhat charming main characters coupled with awkwardly-placed orchestral music. This film is the story of three young, aspiring filmmakers named Agnes, Tom and Ethan who discover a story about a man who has just awoken from a coma after a mysterious blow to the head. The man, James, is decidedly delusional and claims to be the husband of a woman who says she’s never met him.

Agnes, Tom and Ethan decide to pursue a filmed documentary of this man. And this is where things go entirely wrong for the troupe and all involved.

In this dark satire, the audience is unceremoniously manhandled into the film. There’s no shortage of speeding in cars, abrupt pounding on doors and cameras shoved into the faces of civilians in their everyday lives. A one-word crutch for Agnes, often interjected at the worst of times, is altogether hilarious, pathetic and cringeworthy as he tries to shoehorn his way into James’ fragile life: “Why?”

As a writer, the words “journalist’s plight” are something of curse words in our newsroom. Nobody wants to hear about the struggle of the creator, and it’s blatantly narcissistic to implore readers for sympathy when our ultimate goal is not to win over admiration of our audience–our goal is to inform. We strive toward careful, transparent reporting of our subjects and stories we pursue on a daily basis in order to present a wholesome package.

Donning sleazy, slicked-back hair, sweater vests and smiles as artificial as neon signs of strip clubs miles off in the night, the storytelling spearheaded by Agnes is disgusting and a travesty to humane reporting.

And eerily, in a sort of fabulous irony, Christmas’ film is superb through its “hard love” tactic in forewarning anybody who dares to attempt to tell a non-fiction story by following the utter failures of Agnes, Tom and Ethan.

“We were aiming for Seth Rogan goes ‘Dark Knight,’” Robinson said in regard to his goal for the film. “The story is based around a man with a mental illness, but in a way, they all sort of have their own mental illnesses.”

There are tender moments in the film that speculate what the group’s documentary could’ve been, should’ve been and what I secretly hoped it would’ve been, but by the end of the film, whether you have any experience in storytelling or not, the result is painfully obvious.

Poignant and true, “The Man With Four Legs” is a household name for Thin Line. It broke my heart, but it reminds me to tread lightly with my own two legs.

Featured Image: Courtesy | Ed Christmas Productions

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