Karmack, Nowhere USA, so depressed that if things don’t improve soon they’re not even going to be able to afford to turn the streetlights on, an industrial town where nothing good ever happens and there is little to distract from the misery, the movie theatre having long ago closed its doors, but at least for Frank Farrelli things are looking up, from a point of view, having been successful in his interview to be the middle man.
A liaison between the police and the public, it will be Frank’s sad duty to inform relatives of unfortunate accidents which have befallen their loved ones, often fatal, a role which requires him to be a sympathetic listener prepared for the spectrum of responses he might receive, a black-suited bearer of bad news whose best friend Steve has been seriously injured in a bar fight and whom must now tell his father Martin that he is unlikely to recover.
Based on Lars Saabye Christensen’s 2012 novel Sluk, The Middle Man is an oddity both for what it is and what it represents, filmed by Norwegian director Bent Hamer with a largely Scandinavian cast including Birkebeinerne‘s Pål Sverre Hagen as Frank but principally filmed in Canada with English speaking characters, presumably a concession to expand the appeal of a difficult film which might otherwise have vanished into the ghetto too often occupied by the diverse range of cinema defined solely as carrying subtitles.
A job which cannot be anything other than awkward, like Frank it keeps irregular hours and has unpredictable demands, and while there are no good days some are worse than others, caught in the dilemma of wanting to be busy and useful while knowing that busy is bad, hand-held through the process by the soft-spoken sheriff (Due South’s Paul Gross) and his kindly and understanding secretary Blenda (Annihilation’s Tuvo Novotny).
Karmack already a small town before it was shrunk by economic circumstances, there are friends, acquaintances and rivals, among them Trench 11’s Rossif Sutherland and The Void’s Kenneth Welsh in one of his last film appearances as Steve and Martin Miller and The Martian’s Askel Hennie as Arthur Clintstone, the man who scrubs blood out of the ambulance, jealous of both Frank’s new appointment and his new relationship with Blenda.
Suffused with a Scandinavian bleakness where final words and forgiveness are always too late matched by the dark humour which at times seems to be the only thing which keeps the town alive as it is wounded by tragedy after tragedy, The Middle Man is unable to change things, instead offering a step to the acceptance of events and the awfulness of fate, the best he can do to not make things worse but already caught in a game where every player holds a losing hand.
The Middle Man will be on general release from Friday 10th March