Tragedy strikes a perpetual optimist, then unsurprisingly he comes out on top.
If this portrayal is realistic, this guy is not just the ultimate stoic, he is stockpiling the world’s reserves of optimism. Always Look on the Bright Side of Life up to eleven! Makes me want to punch him in the face at times…
This role is perfect for James Franco and he is a good enough actor to do a cinematic monologue requiring an entire range of emotions. To help him succeed, there an outstanding direction by Danny Boyle that combines his regular elements with the added challenge of having a single actor on the screen. The presence of Boylean music is noted. In addition, the sound design is magnificent. The climax using those high-pitched noises is very effective in putting the viewer in the shoes of the character. More than “realistic” noises, those sounds really transmit what the character was going though.
The film is correctly paced and is short enough not be become a bore, but it could have used fewer flashbacks to tell the backstory. It doesn’t abuse that narrative device, but it does use them vigorously.
I read somewhere that Cillian Murphy was first cast for this. This could be used as an alternative version of this story. It would turn into a completely different film, some kind of ultra-depressing lovecraftian look into despair and pain. It would make for a great double feature.