When life couldn't seem worse for Pete with his girlfriend dumping him and his job stinking, someone knocks on his door one night to make it a hell of a lot worse. But he doesn't know it yet.
As far as I know, this film should really count as a 2011/2012 film even though it was finished in 2007. And that's important to add because like "Long Pigs" it's an excellent film that could be forgotten when it's time to compile a Best of the Year-list. Yes, "Tin Can Man" actually has the potential to be on my future list for this year. Of course, it will have had about 10-11 months to rest in my mind so maybe I think differently then, but I can almost guarantee that I will be considering it for the list at the very least. And that's saying a lot - we review a lot of films and it's rare to find the great ones.
The first 30-40 minutes of this film were some of the most uncomfortable minutes in a film this year, and it's solely through dialogue. This is an extremely strong start, to say the least. The film basically takes place after the break-up between Pete and his girlfriend. Pete's life is down the stinker now because all he is left with is a job he hates. One night while watching TV someone knocks on the door. It's his neighbor, and he wants to borrow his phone because he has been in an accident. Pete hesitates but eventually let's him use the phone, but when Pete is waiting in the other room something seems a bit off, because the neighbor appears to be laughing. But he doesn't think much more about it until the neighbor has hung up and Pete is ready to throw him out. He simply won't go and stays through the power of talking. This man will soon take Pete for the ride of his life.
The movie is truly a mindfuck in its own right. I can draw many parallels to the circus, and the first parallel would be that this has the feeling of a psychological circus. You're experiencing something you haven't seen before, and it's both happy and dark all at the same time. The circus parallels don't end in the atmosphere though, as circus tunes are sung at selected times, characters are introduced that feel and seem like freakshow acts, and hell, there's even the appearance of a clown somewhere in there.
But the style and setting is anything but colorful as a circus. The film is black and white, and mostly the characters are lit up with few light sources, often making them appear surrounded by darkness. It's very easy to get swallowed by the film even though it's mostly driven by dialogue. The complete darkness surrounding the characters leaves us with even less than we're used to and it almost becomes a personal feeling.
Yeah, it's strange to the point of surrealism at times, and it has a claustrophobic feeling going on through-out, but that's not all the film has to offer. As I mentioned, the dialogue is great. Very sharp and intense, making it very awkward at times. Hell, it's one of those films that manage to be disturbing through the use of words. I'm not sure how often that happens anymore so that's something to cherish once you find it.
"Tin Can Man" is a cross-breed of genres, even if the switch is subtle at times. It's hard to know if you should call it a psychological horror, a slasher, a torture film, a surreal film. The film just never settles for just being one or the other. And like that wasn't enough, the perfectly timed comedy gives it one more layer.
The performance by Michael Parle as the strange man is worthy of awards. It's obvious that the actor knew exactly what kind of film this was because there is no way he would've been able to pull this through so flawlessly otherwise. He is, honestly, brilliant through the entire thing. When he speaks, we listen. And let's not forget Patrick O'Donnell as Pete - while his character isn't as peculiar, he comes off as a very real person next to this wacko he just met. His character is likable to the max and reminds me of someone like Tim from "The Office". The movie sticks with just a couple of main characters, and that's these two specifically, but everyone else in the movie are equally as stable in their acting - the dad especially.
I don't know how to best describe my feelings over "Tin Can Man". It's minimalistic and uses it to become claustrophobic and personal. It's both creepy and intense, and that's all because of the solid script and the actors reading the lines, not because it throws in a bunch of effects for show. Most of the film is actually dialogue and I can't see how it would work any other way. The film isn't out to guide you through it, it doesn't care if you don't understand what's going on. It just gets on going, and that's why it's such a mindfuck, even if it's not the most "out-there" film. It actually manages to stay grounded for most of the time, making the small turns seem large. You never know where you're going next, but you know that you don't want this man to be there with you. I think I said it earlier: This is the sort of film that swallows you. You get so invested in it, and once it ends you're still part of it. Like if you have just been to the circus!