Sometimes the best way to approach a tricky subject is to approach from side-on, wondering past it as if by accident, brushing its shoulder and letting a nod be as good as a wink. Sometimes, of course, you need to keep the main thing as the main thing; other times you can read so much into a film or a book that you read sub-texts that aren’t there, making a better film in your head than exists in reality.
Some may accuse Ruby Sparks, like the film itself’s central character, of the latter, but they’d be wrong. A writer struggles to follow his break-out masterpiece; he’s in therapy and whilst he’s managed to eek out the occasional short story he’s already trading on former glory with a 10th anniversary reissue of his debut novel.
All of this changes when he dreams of an ideal woman; he’s inspired to write about her, and finds himself writing her into existence, in his flat and his bed.
So it goes – the film playing out like the love-child of the under-seen Adaptation and the under-appreciated (500) Days Of Summer, without the former’s excessive intellectual postering and the latter’s over-played kookiness. The comic touch is mostly light, only occasionally over-playing itself; the detours into slapstick largely work, and even when they don’t the bum note doesn’t resound for too long.
True to form, the plot follows the paths of romantic comedy convention, but all the better to subvert and use them for a bigger purpose. In doing so, the film touches on dark themes with a delicate brushstroke – the gap between the fantasy of idealised romance and the mundane reality, the corrosive effects of pornographic fantasy on real people, the terrifying power the abuser holds over an abused partner. By the time the curtain comes down on the fantasy with an ending that is conventional within in its genre, you’re left seeing romantic comedies, the magazines and billboard and people around you with sharpened senses.
I rated this 4/5 on rottentomatoes.com & 8/10 on imdb.com