Normally a game of charades would be considered a harmless pastime. However, as one quickly realizes in Juan González and Nando Martínez’s absurdist Spanish sci-fi comedy The Fantastic Golem Affairs, nothing is normal in the world that Juan (Brays Efe) inhabits. After a night of partying, Juan and his best friend David (David Menéndez) find themselves playing a drunk game of charades on their roof. Getting a little too into character, David strips off his clothes to mime the film King Kong and accidentally falls to his death.
A tragic event in its own right, Juan is puzzled by the strange thing that occurs when David’s body lands of the roof of the car below. Rather than incurring a bloody death, his body shatters into a thousand porcelain pieces. Distraught over the loss of his best friend, Juan starts to notice that no one else is sharing the same level of grief. They treat the fact that, at his funeral, David’s disintegrated remains lay in sack at the feet of the priest like it is just another day.
Before the body, or what is left of it, is even cold, Juan is saddled with a lot of problems that he did not ask for. Inheriting all of David’s money and his spacious apartment, Juan quickly finds himself dealing with everything from bills from the funeral directors to a pesky insurance representative trying to get him to take responsibility for his client’s damaged car. While these growing nuisances seem to be popping up more frequently, they cannot deter him from seeking answers to the questions no one seem to be asking.
Determined to uncover what happened to his friend, Juan embarks on an investigation that will lead him down a strange and winding road were every clue exposes a new piece to the puzzle. The biggest challenge, of course, is keeping the perpetually aimless Juan focused on the task at hand. Not the sharpest tool in the shed, Juan must navigate greedy friends, a mysterious woman he meets online, and a pair of strangers that seem to be following him, if he has any hope of solving the mystery.
A wild comedic ride from its opening frames, The Fantastic Golem Affairs works best when it reveals in the absurdity of the mystery Juan is trying to solve. The first half of the film features plenty of sharp humour ranging from commentary on online hookups to pianos randomly falling from the sky. No matter how zany the film gets, one can count on Efe’s facial expressions, ranging from shocked to annoyed to aloof, to consistently help sell the gag.
While an inventive and amusing film, González and Martínez’s story gets tangled by its own convoluted web. As answers begin to reveal themselves at the halfway point, the film wanders aimlessly in the latter sections as it tries to figure out how to tie up it various narrative strands. Although one of the film’s funniest lines comes in the back half, there is simply not enough to match the comedic brilliance of the film’s opening half.
All this makes for a film that entertains, but ultimately feels uneven. When The Fantastic Golem Affairs is firing on all cylinders it is a riot, it is just a shame it runs out of comedic gas before it can figure out how to reach its final destination.