The Man In The Hat right off is a tough movie to define. It’s a comedy, but really is quirkier than but-gusting. It’s silent, if you don’t count all the French dialogue and the music, which is throughout the film. However, that doesn’t mean that the film isn’t uniquely entertaining, and that’s mostly due to 3 things: first-time director Stephen Warbeck (yes the Oscar, BAFTA, and BMI winning composer), lead actor Ciarán Hinds (as well as a great supporting cast), and the landscape of France itself, which blend perfectly to make The Man In The Hat a charming and whimsical movie.
“The Thin Man” (Hinds), weirdly named since the film is called The Man In The Hat, is sitting eating food at a café, when he notices a group of men seemingly dumping a body into the river. As soon as they lock eyes with him, he realizes he may be the witness to some bad men committing a serious crime and bolts out. He packs his bags, runs out of his hotel, and jumps into his Fiat 500 to evade them. The Fiat itself is a gag because Ciarán Hinds is by no means a small man. Oh, and he hasn’t said a word this entire time.
At first, the Thin Man’s silence feels off-putting, but then you realize that The Man In The Hat is going to rely on what you see, not necessarily what you hear during the film. In fact, there is very little English during the film. There is a song sung at the end in English, but most of the seldom-used dialogue throughout the film is in French, well, because the film takes place in France, so that would kind of make sense.
After narrowly escaping the gang of criminals after him, the Thin Man proceeds to travel the French countryside in his car, and as he does he meets all sorts of characters. He first meets “The Damp Man,” (Game of Thrones vet Stephen Dillane) who is aptly named that as he meets him soaking wet wearing a suit by the river when the Thin Man’s hat falls in from him looking over a bridge. The Damp Man comes in and out of the story throughout the film. The Thin Man continuously runs into “The Biker Girl” (Maïwenn Le Besco), a woman who is always riding her bike in the town that the Thin Man shows up to. Both he and the Biker Girl seem to have an affection for each other, but once again, there are no words in the film. As the Thin Man stays at a hotel, he runs into the hotel manager (Brigitte Roüan) who also has a few moments with The Damp Man as well. Every town the Thin Man visit, he continues to meet a wide range of interesting characters.
As fun as Ciarán Hinds is doing his subtle take on Mr. Bean, the true star of The Man In The Hat is the French countryside. While Paris always gets the love from us Westerners, the film gives the audience such a breathtakingly beautiful look at small-town France as the Thin Man continues to evade the gangsters and meet new and interesting people. The scenery makes The Man In The Hat an interesting road trip movie as you kind of want to renew your passport and soak in the sights as he did. France itself ends up becoming a character in the film.
While often in movies the motto is “show, don’t tell,” it feels weird that there wasn’t much “telling” in The Man In The Hat. Director Stephen Warbeck makes up for the lack of dialogue with incredible, which, of course, he composed. Co-director John-Paul Davidson and cinematographer Kaname Onoyama’s incredible visuals of the scenery make you forget that you haven’t heard the dialogue between countless people and still manage to tell a story. While the plot itself is rather simple, it’s the experience of the lack of dialogue that keeps the audience glued in. The Man In The Hat definitely has a quirkiness that takes some getting used to, especially when there’s no dialogue, but is still a fun and entertaining film.
The Man In The Hat is currently available in select theaters and on VOD.