MANIFF: Stanley: A Man of Variety

Director: Stephen Cookson
Studio: CK Films, Special One Films & Red Rock Entertainment
Starring: Timothy Spall

Stanley: A Man of Variety is very much a one man show. In the film Timothy Spall plays the eponymous Stanley, a man who, at first glance, seems rather dull and ordinary. However, Stanley has been locked up in a mental institution for the past fifteen years, with his mental health issues taking the form of frequent hallucinations of a variety of show characters (all of which are played by Spall) from the last century such as George Formby, Margaret Rutherford and Tony Hancock. This film is very much a character study of Stanley and the inner workings of his mind.

What struck me most was the way it used the styles, sensibilities and even bits devised by the aforementioned comics and re-contextualised them, making their playful innuendos increasingly disturbing. Timothy Spall is wonderful to watch, playing characters with such energy that it’s sometimes easy to forget it’s him.

There are a couple of scenes which felt too long to me- but I suspect feel appropriate if you’re a fan of the style of comedy utilised in the film. The cinematography on the whole was good, giving the film a fantastical quality however, as with many films with the kind of budget constraints as Stanley: A Man of Variety, it’s special effects could have been improved, not that this removed anything from the films entertainment value.

During the Q&A following the film Timothy Spall said that they had aimed for a cross between Kind Hearts, Coronets and Eraserhead, which really sums up the feeling you get watching the film. This is really one of those films that’s going to appeal to a very specific audience, so if any of the above sounds interesting to you, I’d recommend it in a heartbeat.

We teamed up with Humanity Hallows to bring you complete coverage of the Manchester International Film Festival. You can view the full list of reviews which is being updated as we post new content here.


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