Somewhat of a success at Cannes, Michael was billed as a look at the mundane life of a paedophile. And mundane it is.
Michael (played by Michael Fuith) is an unlikable, socially incompetent middle-aged man who just happens to have a ten-year-old captive in his basement. And that’s kind of the whole plot. We see the triviality of his life with a young boy – instant foods, blacked out blinds, big basement locks and the kid hiding in the car footwell when they go for a trip. His life is trivial and dull, and we slowly and painfully see it all. It’s an interesting premise, but one that doesn’t quite work.
The main reason for this is that there are hardly any dramatic moments, and the ones which are present are entirely predictable. This essentially makes the film very dull after the initial half-hour of intrigue, and it felt to me like it would have worked much better as a short. There’s not really enough there to sustain attention.
Michael isn’t shown as inherently evil but he’s bland, uninteresting and pathetic, living up to the creepy paedophile stereotype in that he’s a socially awkward loser and impossible to find any sympathy with. Perhaps it would have been more interesting to give him a likable side, challenging viewers perceptions and giving them something to think about? But no questions are asked, no points are made. We simply observe a dull man with a dark secret. We can think about how cruel the whole thing is but again, that doesn’t necessitate a 90 minute film.
Michael is unfortunately a boring, predictable, painfully drawn out and frustrating film: A film which thinks it’s doing something arty and interesting, but is ultimately doing very little.