Thursday, January 5, 2012

An Invisible Sign

They say there are no longer any good movies being made these days. However, that’s not totally true. There are plenty of excellent films to be found. The trick is you have to know where to look. It may require a little effort on your part; nevertheless, you can find them.

One of the reasons I do movie reviews in the first place is to find little gems. They are the movies that fly under the radar screen that don’t have the massive budgets for marketing and promotions. Most often, they are not made within the Hollywood system. The independent cinema is still alive and offers the kind of creativity that Hollywood has turned their backs on.

One film I want to bring to your attention is An Invisible Sign. It’s truly a delightful, ingenious film that is well worth your time. First time director Marilyn Agrelo has created a whimsical and highly entertaining adult fairy tale that’s totally captivating. An Invisible Film is a film that practically no one has seen. Most of the reviews have been generally unfavorable. I don’t see it. Obviously, they didn’t watch the same movie I did.

An Invisible Sign explores important, profound concepts that the critics failed to recognize. What happens in our childhood can forever set us on a course which can have a devastating impact on our lives. This film takes a look at what happens when we believe the wrong things as a child which can lead to a “frame of mind“ that is not based in truth or reality although we believe it to be true.

The film stars Jessica Alba as Mona Gray, a twenty-something recluse who is socially inept and could be suffering from mental illness. The film follows her life both in adulthood and as a young child (Bailee Madison). At age 10 Mona witnessed her father (John Shea) suffering the early stages of mental illness. He increasingly becomes withdrawn from the world and seeks refuge in his own reality. Mona is dedicated to her father and decides to make a deal with the universe. She gives up everything she loves with the exception of mathematics in order to save her father.

But the universe doesn’t seem to care much as her father’s condition seems to deteriorate. The only thing that gives Mona comfort is her love for numbers. Math offers a place to escape where she finds meaning in the existence of life. Adding to Mona’s confusion is her next door neighbor and math teacher, Mr. Jones (J. K. Simmons), who wears homemade necklaces in the form of a number to represent his emotional state each day. Mona tries to understand and assumes that if the numbers that Mr. Jones wears are higher maybe they can be used to help her dad recover.

Mona’s mom fears that her daughter will never make a life for herself so she sets up a job as a teacher at the local elementary school. Now things get really interesting as Mona has to come to terms with the real world. Is she merely quirky, eccentric, or is she suffering from the same mental illness as her father?

Adding a love interest is fellow teacher Ben Smith (Chris Messina), who tries to reach out to Mona. Mona also sees herself in one of her students, Lisa Venus (Sophie Nyweida), whose mother is dying of cancer and could be slipping into a permanent state of depression.

Can Mona find a way to overcome these obstacles and find her footing in life? An Invisible Sign is quirky, offbeat, and unusually different—but different is good. One thing that strikes me about this film is the unusual combination of humor, drama, and some truly touching moments. It seems that first-time director Marilyn Agrelo has created an honest and realistic portrayal of the fragile condition of the human mind and the human experience.

Without a few breaks here and there, we could all be in the same place as Mona who is struggling to escape a life of pain. To say the least, life is fragile, and our experiences can certainly define our existence and future in life. An Invisible Sign points out just how lucky some of us are to have people in our lives that can help to hold our feet on solid ground.

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