Self Help is a story about Geoffrey, an overweight loner who struggles with depression, his identity and, in particular, his longing to find a girl. He finds solace in the misogynistic self-help guru, John Power (a character not dissimilar to Tom Cruise’s Frank T.J. Mackey, in Magnolia). But Geoff’s solace is short lived, and after travelling to a John Power conference he is just as miserable as ever. It seems like the only way he’s going to help himself properly is if he comes out of hiding.
This is technically a very accomplished film, with slick cinematography, particularly the simple, but effective, tracking shots. Director James Page proves that he can not only construct a good narrative but also realise it in a professional manner with a very modest budget (£500, I think) and making the most of contacts to gain borrowed equipment and a crew off friends.
The performance of Peter Glover is awesome. The man barely utters a word for the majority of the film, but holds the screen with ease. Adding to the real deadpan sense of humour of the piece. In some ways the humour is similar to Scandinavian filmmakers Aki Kaurismaki and Roy Andersson, It’s all about lingering with things a little longer than is comfortable, as Geoff wallows in his own self-pity. A notable example would be when Geoffrey suffers a small panic attacker, and tries to cheer himself up with a quick wank in his hotel room.
The portrayal of a depressed overweight loner, who is only looking for love, can be a rather boring and overused cliché in film. But the story that unfolds in Self Help is told with a fantastic sensibility, really getting to the heart of Geoffrey’s turmoil. There are some small holes in the narrative and a few things that don’t quite add up, which I won’t go into for fear of spoiling some of the best moments. By the end, we’re by no means left with all the answers, and the story is far from resolved. But it fits, and it’s certainly more truthful to life by any account. You really feel like you’ve been on a journey with Geoffrey, and despite the overriding comedic nature of the piece, Self Help is actually a very touching and poignant film.
See more of James Page’s work here