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Linoleum review

Jun 09, 2023

Despite a strong idiosyncratic start, Colin West’s metaphysical plot tends to veer towards the formulaic

This cosmic midlife-crisis drama written and directed by Colin West has a pleasingly homecrafted feel, amiably impatient dialogue and metaphysical prickles, especially with a climactic twist that’s akin to the one-sided Moebius strip paradox mentioned by one of the characters. It flips our expectations while connecting back to what we’ve seen before, running sci-fi back into science and chance into predestination.

American comic Jim Gaffigan stars as floundering TV presenter Cameron Edwin, the host of wacky children’s science show Above and Beyond. A former Crafoord prize winner with ambitions to be an astronaut, he is now staring at life limitations: divorce from wife Erin (Better Call Saul’s Rhea Seehorn), also an academic big-hitter, as well as a humiliating ousting from his own programme, due to be sold off and fronted instead by the slick, sports car-driving Kent Armstrong (also played by Gaffigan). But if the arrival of his doppelganger and rival in the house opposite isn’t uncanny enough, then the crash-landing of a satellite – Russian, apparently – behind his house signals that we have definitely teleported into bizarro-world territory.

More accurately, we’re in Donnie Darko territory. West takes cues from Richard Kelly’s 2001 classic, including strange objects falling from the sky, a slo-mo high-school entrance, a Grandma Death-style figure in the grey-haired apparition who haunts Cameron and a mood of heightened suburban evanescence. He also similarly has it in for square rationalism, in the Eisenhowerian person of Kent, who flogs his panties-wearing son Marc (Gabriel Rush) for his romance with fellow misfit Nora (Katelyn Nacon), Cameron’s daughter. Despite the left-field cheerleading, this plotline cleaves unfortunately close to the formulaic after a strong, idiosyncratic start.

Gaffigan, though, is a constantly strong centre in the two roles. Himself a doppelganger for Philip Seymour Hoffman, he fills Cameron with integrity and a resolute sweetness as he fashions redemption from the wreckage. And the apparently depressing twist gives Linoleum’s entropy-defying optimism successful lift-off.

Linoleum is available on digital platforms on 17 April.