Choking Man (tbc)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner13/11/2008

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 85 mins

Impressively directed drama with strong performances and a subtle script, though the tilt into magical realism doesn't quite work.

What's it all about?
Set in the ethnically diverse neighbourhood of Jamaica, Queens, New York, Choking Man stars Octavio Gomez Berrios as Jorge, a pathologically shy Ecuadorian dishwasher who works in a diner run by Rick (Mandy Patinkin), where he works under the constant shadow of a health and safety poster outlining the Heimlich manoeuvre. Taunted by his fellow co-worker Jerry (Aaron Paul, from Breaking Bad), Jorge develops a powerful crush on his Chinese co-worker Amy (Eugenia Yuan), when she is kind to him.

However, Jerry also has a crush on Amy and is constantly making a play for her. Meanwhile, Jorge is also battling inner demons at home, enduring a tirade of verbal abuse from his roommate, who may or may not be a figment of his imagination.

The Good
You'd never guess that Choking Man was from the same director behind Coneheads, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Mike Bassett: England Manager. Steve Barron films Jorge in tight, off-centre close-ups that expertly convey his constricting shyness; the only problem is that this approach also prevents us from ever really getting to know the character.

The performances are excellent, particularly Aaron Paul, who pulls off the surprising feat of making an initially antagonistic and obnoxious character likeable. Yuan is extremely sweet but her character eventually becomes a little cloying and the scene where she's wowed by a magic carpet salesman is painful to watch.

The Bad
Ultimately, it's this tilt into the realm of magical realism, coupled with an unengaging lead character (it's impossible to feel anything other than pity for Jorge) that prevents Choking Man from being a more satisfying experience. Similarly, the film is interspersed with animated sequences (by artist Marina Zurkow) that don't really add anything to the film.

Worth seeing?
In short, Choking Man is never less than watchable, thanks to its assured direction, decent performances and intriguing set-up, but it struggles to engage on an emotional level.

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Content updated: 22/09/2018 14:49

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