Fred is a difficult film to categorize as it can’t easily be placed into any box. It is most definitely a drama of that I am sure, but it contains a lot of darkness and a plot that could be classed as a thriller, as it has more than a hint of mystery and suspense about it. Then there are elements of comedy in the style of Buster Keaton, as well as a musical number that is never really hinted at, nor returned to. All of this contained within a 28 minute run time suggests that putting the film into any particular genre would be doing it a great disservice.
Alexander Jeremy’s Fred is an odd film, it is very frustrating, yet occasionally, genuinely moving. It introduces us to the story of a woman named Lily (Susie Kimnell) who is consumed by grief; her fiancé James has recently died, she misses him hugely and his absence is like an open wound. Then she meets Fred, (Samuel Woodhams) he seems and acts like a friend of her late partner and, although she doesn’t know him, she doesn’t really question him either.
The audience also doesn’t question it, but that is because we have no backstory for these characters, we are just working off what writer/director Jeremy wants to show us and it isn’t even enough to make an educated guess. Then we are thrown a curveball as Fred, after the funeral and his initial meeting with Lily, sits on his bed and indulges us in a spontaneous song and dance number.
As an audience we are taken aback by this strange turn of events, however, this routine immediately brings to mind Arthur Fleck, Joaquin Phoenix’s psychotic creation in Todd Phillips ‘Joker’. The dance number is filmed rather excellently and is very well choreographed, the camera swoops and soars, following a dancing Fred through the streets, across roads, via subway tunnels and all the way to Lily’s house. Fred arrives in the middle of the night just as Lily is going to bed and we are left in no doubt that Fred is just a little bit unhinged.
This scene is even more remarkable in its similarity to Joker, mainly because ‘Fred’ was written and filmed way before the clown prince of crime had even left Todd Phillip’s directorial eye. The performance of the two leads is very strong, Kimnells descent into grief is completely believable while Woodham’s Fred remains dark, mysterious and sleazily charming throughout the film. Both performances are an excellent counterweight to each other.
The cinematography by Jasper Cable Alexander throws us some memorable images, particularly with an early scene where Fred walks towards the Church becoming a clever throwback to Hal Ashby’s and Peter Sellers’ classic Being There. The lighting which uses lots of blues, blacks, and greys remains consistently dark and foreboding and, although these choices help to evoke the emotions of our lead characters, it wears a bit thin after a while and becomes a bit too dreary for the audience to believe in.
‘Fred’ Contains some nice ideas and has a script which is quite original. Occasionally, for whole moments at a time, it does succeed in evoking the pain and the mysteries that it plays with. However it’s lack of focus along with its constant blackness and unease, leaves us feeling unfulfilled and we are left dissatisfied, craving more answers than the film is willing to give us.