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Review: Finch – “Touching and tender”

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As an avid lover of dogs, and long-time admirer of Tom Hanks, I’d been waiting for Finch, coming to Apple+ this Friday, with great anticipation. All I needed was that poster of Hanks with Seamus, a scruffy real-life rescue dog turned canine star, to pique my interest. While I’m unsure who to attribute this notion to, I once read that owning a pet is like signing yourself up for a pre-determined tragedy. So too is watching Finch, a story where from the beginning the end is all too clear. Yet Finch is a film with so much humour and heart, that the inevitable tears shed are worth the fulfilling journey.

The premise is a relatively simple one, Finch (Hanks) is one of perhaps only a handful of people left on Earth. Outside the temperature is 150 degrees, the UV radiation is high. Most of the human race has fallen victim to solar flares causing catastrophic damage to the ozone, resulting in the death of most of the organic matter on our planet. He has survived as best he can, living in the shadows or inside to avoid the sun’s deadly rays while scouring the already pillaged stores of St. Louis for whatever remains in supplies and food for both himself and his only living companion, Goodyear (Seamus, an impressively expressive and wonderful dog).

Luckily, Finch is exactly the type of man you want on your team during an apocalypse. An inventor and robotics expert, Finch already has one mechanical companion, Dewy, that accompanies him on scouting missions. However, Finch is also dying. His continual exposure to radiation has ravaged his body and he knows the end is near. So, being the resourceful and loving dog owner he is, he makes his last project the creation of an artificial intelligence (Caleb Landry Jones) who eventually names itself Jeff. One of his directives is to protect and provide for Goodyear once Finch is gone. However, in the midst of finishing Jeff’s programming, they are forced to leave their shelter due to an approaching storm surge, and Finch, Goodyear and his robotic friends are forced to travel cross country in search of refuge.

Comparisons are easily and likely to be made between Tom Hanks’ role in Cast Away and his turn in Finch since here he is on screen either on his own, or with non-human companions. And Hanks, as usual does not disappoint. One of the more reliable Hollywood actors, Hanks is pushed through the emotional gambit again in Finch, a role that calls for frustration, anger, fear, sadness, happiness and acceptance to play out in short measure. But, Hanks also wasn’t really alone in this film. Caleb Landry Jones was present for all the frames Jeff is in, albeit he was in nine-inch stilts, a suit and a mask. This makes it certainly different than Hanks talking to inanimate volleyball Wilson. There is great chemistry between the two actors and a camaraderie that grows as Jeff learns and becomes more human-like.

Jeff’s character also provides many laughs amongst this most dour of backdrops. Written by Craig Luck and Ivor Powell, Finch could have had a much different feel, yet it plays almost like a comedic family drama; a father and son story of sorts as opposed to apocalyptic science fiction. In the hands of director Miguel Sapochnik, who won an Emmy for his work on Game of Thrones, Finch is also able to well balance its tense, large-scale sequences, with its more intimate moments.

Finch treads the line of being overly saccharine but instead largely avoids the more melodramatic tones to be touching and tender in its emotional conclusion. It’s sentimental without overdoing the sweet. Finch effortlessly portrays the power of the human-animal bond, yet it also grasps the importance of the bond we all have with one another. It celebrates the simple pleasures that life has to offer, like a game of fetch with your dog or the sun hitting your face. It finds humanity in the least expected places. It’s less about what has been lost, and more about grasping the joys in the present while not losing hope for the future.

Finch will begin streaming on Apple+ this Friday, November 5th

 

SPOILER for those sensitive to scenes involving animals in film (skip reading if you don’t want this info):

 

Finch is a very safe watch.

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