Cold Souls - David Strathairn & Paul Giamatti star in Sophie Barthes’s playful existential comedy

A surreal storyline: check. A famous actor playing himself: check. Playful existential comedy Cold Souls certainly ticks some of the same boxes as Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman’s Being John Malkovich, yet first-time writer-director Sophie Barthes’s assured feature film debut has a deadpan wit and gentle pathos all its own.

Cold Souls - Dina Kurzon plays world-weary soul-trafficker Nina in this surreal comedy

The movie starts off in New York, where Paul Giamatti (played, naturally, by Paul Giamatti) is agonising over the rehearsals for his forthcoming production of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya. He’s not sure he can cope, so he enlists the services of a company that offers to lighten his burden by temporarily storing his soul. (It turns out, disappointingly, to be the size of a chickpea.) Unfortunately, despite the soothing assurances of David Strathairn’s smooth-talking doctor, the transaction doesn’t quite go to plan and Giamatti finds himself mixed up in the murky world of soul trafficking in the company of Dina Kurzon’s world-weary Russian mule. Bizarre? Certainly, but funny, touching and thought-provoking too.

On general release from 13 November.

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