It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Hal Hartley has always marched in the avant garde, but this time he marches alone. Followers will have to be drafted. "No Such Thing" is inexplicable, shapeless, dull. It doesn't even rise to entertaining badness. Coming four years after his intriguing if unsuccessful "Henry Fool," and filmed mostly on location in Iceland with Icelandic money, it suggests a film that was made primarily because he couldn't get anything else off the ground.
The film's original title was "Monster." That this is a better title than "No Such Thing" is beyond debate. The story involves a monstrous beast who lives in an island off the Icelandic coast, and is immortal, short-tempered and alcoholic. As the film opens, the Monster (Robert John Burke) has killed a TV news crew, which inspires a cynical New York network executive (Helen Mirren) to dispatch a young reporter (Sarah Polley) to interview him. Polley's fiance was among the Monster's victims.
Her plane crashes in the ocean, she is the sole survivor and therefore makes good news herself, and is nursed back to life by Julie Christie, in a role no more thankless than the others in this film. Since the filming, Christie had a facelift and Mirren won an Oscar nomination. Life moves on.
We seek in vain for shreds of recognizable human motivation. By the time she meets the Monster, Polley seems to have forgotten he killed her fiance. By the time she returns with the Monster to New York, the world seems to have forgotten. The Monster wants to go to New York to enlist the services of Dr. Artaud (Baltasar Kormakur), a scientist who can destroy matter and therefore perhaps can bring an end to the misery of the immortal beast. We are praying that in the case of this movie, matter includes celluloid.