The film with easily the most interesting title of any movie this year thus far has hit theaters; Nandor Fodor and the Talking Mongoose is both exactly what you’d expect it to be and completely out of left field. It’s based on true, documented events, and Nandor Fodor was indeed a real person. There’s a book based on the story, too, titled ‘GEF! The Strange Tale of an Extra Special Talking Mongoose’. With Simon Pegg in the lead, the film combines his legendary comedic presence with a sneakily dark, off-kilter narrative to construct a quirky comedy destined to find a niche audience. Whether or not you’re a part of that audience will likely determine your overall enjoyment of the film, but either way, it is remarkably well executed.
Simon Pegg is, as mentioned and expected, a wonderful fit here. His propensity for oddity propels a narrative that gradually builds around him, toying with personal tragedy in pokes as it spins round-and-round through a few repeating locations, though upon each subsequent visit, they feel newly unusual. The film plays more like a journey through skepticism and ideals of life rather than a literal quest for a talking mongoose named Gef (pronounced Jeff).
Yet, everyone within the film is obsessed with the supposed phenomenon in a thoroughly straightforward way; Fodor, and his assistant Anne, gloss over the parallels to their personal struggles in favor of peeking through holes in the wall and trekking through caves to try and get a look at the creature. The balance is thin but this film never falters from it, achieving a pleasantly confusing kind of storytelling.
Fodor and Anne clash in expectations as they hunt, and the ringing notes on belief (and the lack thereof) are fascinating. There are poignant parallels to the religious discussion climate as we know it today, disguised in a jester’s clothes, dancing about and juggling all related questions with a haphazard glee. These sorts of talks dominate social media today, and are often quite hateful and stagnant; this film tackles such queries subtly yet directly, and draws the necessary line between them and personal loss, which makes them so much harder to even consider, let alone answer.
Writer/director Adam Sigal has a firm grasp on all his themes, both on the page and the screen. The film is a sleek visual exploration of the London countryside in 1935. Time spent inside, most often in pubs gleaming with deep orange light and unrecognizable local garb or in houses framed by ornate woodwork and questionable wallpapers, feels closed-in, and even occasionally stressful. Oppositely, the bits outdoors are bright, spacious, and more lighthearted. Tones bleed over into each other, and the experience is still consistent, but the color-driven visual separation adds an aesthetic layer to the film that feels both simply pleasing and relevant to the narrative.
His script somehow tops that, swooping in and out of contemplation, pacing it all with well-placed gags akin to the best of Simon Pegg’s past in the type. His climax breaks into genuinely heart-wrenching territory; he confronts his themes head-on and, before everyone settles down and we fade to black, hits an intense emotional high. It may seem like that would come out of nowhere for a film of this ilk, but again, Sigal manages an astonishing equilibrium
Why this one isn’t landing with many critics is beyond unimaginable. It’s a well shot, written, performed, and executed dramedy that is definitely one of the year’s low-key highlights thus far. It isn’t perfect, but its impact far overshadows any notable issue. Nandor Fodor and the Talking Mongoose is well worth its 96 minute runtime for anyone and everyone. If you’re interested, dive in; if not, take a chance and give it a shot. It’s bound to strike a chord or two.
Nandor Fodor and the Talking Mongoose is currently playing in select theaters courtesy of Saban Films and Paramount. The film will be available on digital platforms on September 19, 2023.
Why this one isn’t landing with many critics is beyond unimaginable. It's a well shot, written, performed, and executed dramedy that is definitely one of the year’s low-key highlights thus far. It isn’t perfect, but its impact far overshadows any notable issue. Nandor Fodor and the Talking Mongoose is well worth its 96 minute runtime for anyone and everyone. If you’re interested, dive in; if not, take a chance and give it a shot. It’s bound to strike a chord or two.
Movie-loving writer and aspiring filmmaker.