Let’s all be real here. Having an imaginary friend is actually quite terrifying. That feeling of being controlled and/or tormented by another spiritual being would be indescribably frightening. Adam Egypt Mortimer proves that fact with his latest movie titled Daniel Isn’t Real. After having its Canadian premiere at the Fantasia International Film Festival, many genre fans have had a great time experiencing this unique film that is absolutely fantastic from beginning to end. Based on Brian DeLeeuw‘s book In This Way I Was Saved, it is a compelling psychological thriller that really focuses on the mature themes of both trauma and mental illness.
Daniel Isn’t Real is about a college freshman named Luke (Miles Robbins) who suffered from a family trauma that has stuck with him for many years. As he’s now just trying to live his life, he is still struggling emotionally on the inside. In order to help him cope with his PTSD, he decides to bring back his childhood imaginary friend Daniel (Patrick Schwarzenegger). However, Daniel’s personality is completely different from Luke as he’s a lot more cool and confident, even if he’s not exactly a nice guy. Daniel will do anything he can to help his friend become a better person, even if that means manipulating him to do some questionable things along the way.
The movie is remarkably intriguing from start to finish. It’s not for everybody, but it’s fun to think about it after you see it for the first time because it’s so multidimensional. There are some scenes that will probably leave you speechless because of the creepy imagery. When it starts, you will be immediately invested in the tone that Mortimer will then continue building up for the rest of the film. Like in the film Mandy, you get a psychedelic feel at times, which really makes it a trippy and unique cinematic experience. The director really does his best to make sure the audience will connect with the main protagonist as the story progresses.
The relationship between Luke and Daniel is without a doubt the best part of the entire film. Both Robbins and Schwarzenegger are really good in their roles, and they bring so much depth to their characters. Because they’re totally different from one another, it makes for some really suspenseful and exciting moments. While Luke and Daniel obviously carry the movie, some of the other characters like Cassie (Sasha Lane) and Dr. Cornelius Braun (Chuckwodi Iwuki) are a little underdeveloped. It’s not that they’re not interesting, it just would have been better to see a lot more of them on screen.
Daniel Isn’t Real is an excellent thriller that showcases a unique concept, some mesmerizing visuals, and great performances from its two lead actors. Fantasia loves to show features from filmmakers who are not afraid to take some risks, and Adam Egypt Mortimer is indeed one of those people. While it’s undeniably not an easy watch, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still an ambitious, engaging, and suspenseful flick made from a person who clearly understands what it’s like to go through this type of inner conflict.