Entertainment Magazine

Unreliable Narrator

Posted on the 09 April 2024 by Sjhoneywell
Film: Hypochondriac
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire! Unreliable Narrator

I think it’s easier to be a hypochondriac today than it was a few decades ago. We have the internet now, and we have WebMD that tells us that every set of symptoms we type into it is indicative of cancer. Hypochondriac, from a couple of years ago, is honestly less about this sort of desperate fear of illness and belief of severe illness than it is about severe mental and emotional trauma. This is not a fun and cuddly horror film, but one that descends into those depths of mental illness unflinchingly.

It's also worth saying at the top that Hypochondriac is very much a gay movie. If you are going to watch this, you’re going to have to be very comfortable with not just gay characters but with full-frontal male nudity, and a baby step away from gay porn. I say this not in judgment, but as a sort of warning for people who are going to be upset by this. If that’s going to bother you, Hypochondriac is going to be a movie that you will not get through.

Will (Zach Villa) works as a potter, making high-end pottery. His life, despite the fact that he doesn’t love his boss, is what he wants it to be. He has a relationship with Luke (Devon Graye) and a coworker (Yumarie Morales) he likes. More importantly, his mother (Marlene Forte) has been out of his life for a solid decade. We see early on that his mother dealt with some severe mental health issues, including attempting to kill him.

Out of nowhere, Will receives a package from his mother containing information about his life and things from his past. More concerning, she has information about Luke, telling Will that he is not trustworthy. At the same time, Will starts to have issues with his body. He collapses while carrying a heavy box, he starts to cramp up. He also starts hallucinating a sort of anthropomorphized wolf that looks very reminiscent of Frank from Donnie Darko. Will also starts to injure himself, including putting his arms in a working kiln when he hallucinates someone inside of it. Prescribed anti-psychotics, it’s not clear if anything is really happening to Will or how much of what we are seeing is real.

That, ultimately, is the story of Hypochondriac. Will experiences a number of terrible events through the film, but not all of them really happen. Or do they? Will is entirely unreliable as a narrator, so we will frequently see something happen, and then realize that it didn’t happen. Will is worried about what he might be diagnosed with ALS, multiple sclerosis, or something even worse. Or perhaps everything is in his head. Is he even being contacted by his mother? Is Luke a figment of his imagination, too?

Hypochondriac does not pull any punches in a number of places. There are definitely some places where we get a little bit of gore, again, realizing that what is happening might or might not be real. There’s also several instances of full-frontal male nudity. Toward the end, there is sex scene between Will and Luke that comes a step away from recreating a scene from Blue is the Warmest Color.

Hypochondriac is not really a film to be enjoyed; it’s a film to be experienced more than anything else. There are definitely harder watches out there, but this is not an easy one to get through, which makes it difficult to recommend. It’s not a film I would want to watch again any time soon. Part of that is absolutely the fact that Will does some things that are ugly and terrible to other people and himself, whether that actually happens or not.

A bigger part of that, though, is the fact that Will can’t be relied on for anything. The “something happens and then it doesn’t happen” trope is so frequent that it loses all of its power eventually. When it’s used well (think the double dream sequence in An American Werewolf in London), it’s incredibly effective. When it happens over and over, though, you start to expect it, and it loses all of its power.

Why to watch Hypochondriac: A unique depiction of descent into mental illness.
Why not to watch: It’s powerfully messed up.

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