Hidden along the coast of Iceland lives a terrifying beast that kills anyone who dares disturb it, but only in an attempt to draw attention to itself so that perhaps one day a human might find a way to end its pathetic existence. The beautiful but naive young journalist Beatrice learns that her fiance may have been one of the many that were killed by the murderous monster, and she convinces her employers to send her out into the wild to track it down. What she finds is a lonely and self-loathing wretch that is destined to live in isolation, far away from the world that scorns it. Finding that her own hate has been replaced with pity, Beatrice befriends the beast, and offers to bring it back to America, where a brilliant scientist may have a way to put it out of its misery.
NO SUCH THING opens with a brilliantly-conceived idea for a modern fairy tale with limitless potential laid out before it. Unfortunately, the social commentary that is worked into nearly every line of dialog is so heavy-handed that it renders the plot secondary to Hal Hartly's personal agenda. Hartly paints our fear-driven society and the sensationalist media as the real monsters in his tale, but in no subtle terms. He spends so much time demonizing the other characters in the film that The Monster becomes far less menacing by comparison. The exaggerated script does lend itself towards some entertainingly over-the-top performances, especially from Helen Mirren as The Boss. Robert John Burke also runs away with his portrayal of the cynical Monster, who curses life in a trendy leisure suit as he drinks himself out of his misery. If Hartly could have only dropped the cerebral front to allow the viewer access to a whimsical world of fantasy for just a moment, NO SUCH THING may have been a far greater success, but then, it would not have been the story that he was looking to tell.
If you liked NO SUCH THING, check out:
THE GOLDEN COMPASS, NIGHTBREED, MIRRORMASK, PAN'S LABYRINTH.