Director: Kenny Riches
Starring: Robert Lorie, Paul Chamberlain, Lisa Banes
You may not have heard of this film, and you would be forgiven for that; ‘The Strongest Man’ is a very obscure little comedy from 2015 which is difficult to track down, but ultimately, is a film which is just about worth the effort.
An introverted large Cuban American, named Beef, and his Korean American friend, Conan, struggle to make a living in the construction industry and find meaning to their life. Beef really wants to move on with his life, however he has hang-ups on just about everything. For instance, he wants grandkids but doesn’t want to get married. For that matter, the trio of lead characters all have their baggage; Conan desperately seeks the approval of his parents, whilst Illi just wants to find something to do with her life.
They all have a sense of hopeful emptiness, yet it’s morose enough to invoke some worry. Like with Beef when he gets stressed, it’s assumed he sees demons. All the characters are well-rounded enough that it doesn’t take that much time to figure them out, which kinda removes the necessity of some good dialogue or possible scenarios that could have happened had the characters not been so clear-cut. So, the crux of the character development is found in the small scenes between dialogue and how they hold themselves around each other. The subtle actions are cute to watch and underpin the endearing nature of these odd characters.
My main problem with this movie is that it’s incredibly slow. It spent a lot of time using slow-moving, scenic shots that didn’t really go anywhere. Don’t get me wrong they were beautiful and really well done, but it felt like B-roll footage at times. There were a few shots that were used for symbolism, but I felt it was either very blatant or had already been addressed in previous scenes. Like one scene involving Conan, showing his envy at his brothers success. Then, a few scenes later it kinda showed the same thing again, except it showed him surrounded by a few of his brother’s trophies around a pool. Its like, I get it – he wants to be appreciated, why are they showing this to me again?
The was only one generic thing about this film: Mrs. Rosen, a rich, white woman, wanted to be Illi’s surrogate mother and control her. You know, tell her who to date, who to have kids with, etc. This was kinda irritating to me since it’s been done in plenty of movies before this one. Also, despite Mrs. Rosen’s motives it didn’t seem to have that much of an impact on the story, leaving me wondering why it was included at all.
This movie left me in a slightly better mood than before, a tad confused, and also kinda bored. It doesn’t totally lack anything worth watching, but I was still left wanting more. It ended with a conclusion to two of the characters falling in love, I guess, and one just being as miserable as he was at the start of the movie. I guess I expected more from both considering it didn’t convey the whole “love story” that well in my opinion.
The major downfall of the entire movie is that it’s slow and doesn’t show any effort to pick up the pace. Sure, it kinda gives a soothing look into their lives and makes it feel really casual; Beef drones on about his various musings about life, Conan very blatantly wants the approval of his parents, Illi is too comfortable with being lazy. But, once you reach those conclusions, there’s not much of the movie left open to interpretation. There are some mild symbolic moments, but far too often these moments are rendered totally irrelevant, since they don’t affect the movie that much. The main problem is arguably that the film didn’t seem to be under too much direction. This is a “day in the life of” kinda movie, and that’s fine, but the slow progression clashed with the actual dialogue and story narration.
‘The Strongest Man’ is a slow-paced, melancholic look into an extreme introvert’s life, inner-thoughts, and how they deal with those around them. I’d watch this film on a rainy day, if you can find it for free (i.e. Amazon Prime). I like it, but most will find it to be too “art house”.