Calgary International Film Fest: Special

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Les Franken (Michael Rapaport) is an everyman living a monotonous life. Though plagued by crippling normalcy more than anything else, he signs up to participate in a clinical trial for a new anti-depressant. Special is the story of Franken’s adventure through the world as the drug’s adverse psychological effects save him from his stifling lifestyle as a lowly parking enforcement officer by convincing Franken he has superpowers, while destroying aspects of himself and his relationships with his few close friends as they struggle to understand what has gone wrong.

What is quite refreshing about the film is how it doesn’t tiptoe around the fact that Franken is clearly and undeniably hallucinating as he goes through his new superhero life. Special’s filmmakers don’t bother with the cliche hope-instilling hints at his potential “real superpowers” like so many other movies and focus more on the extreme reactions to and adverse situations created by Franken’s delusions, making the movie so riveting.

Rapaport’s performance is also commendable as he so convincingly portrays Franken’s belief in his abilities and the frustration of repeatedly hitting barriers—metaphorical and literal—because of his strong imaginings. This, paired with the film’s fantastic concept, makes Special a touching and well-produced romp through one man’s trip through insanity and back again.