Superheroes have been made mainstream, made gritty, made realistic, made tragic, and made meta, and with this Australian romance from actor turned writer-director Leon Ford, they’ve now been made twee. That this is not the terminal development it might at first sound is owed to the charms of leads Ryan Kwanten (of True Blood fame) and Maeve Dermody, who play two of the most ludicrously attractive oddball outcasts in movie history. Kwanten is the title character, a timid office worker bullied by his cubicle colleagues during the day, who finds escape at home in a vivid fantasy life in which he's a superhero receiving missions from “the Commissioner,” fighting crime on the streets and protecting the innocent. Dermody plays an eccentric scientist who lives at home and dreams of having the ability to walk through walls due to the right meeting up of spaces between atoms. She meets and instantly falls for Griff after being railroaded into a relationship with his well-meaning and painfully normal brother (Patrick Brammall).
Griff The Invisible requires a delicate tone that may actually be impossible to sustain—neither of the characters is entirely well, and Kwanten's would surely fall under any standard definition of mental illness. The film makes the argument that the pairing is perfect, and that Dermody, who inveigles herself into Kwanten’s life and fabricated world, isn’t enabling him, just joining him in a harmless, heartfelt departure from the dreariness of contemporary life. Let a thousand gamma rayed marigolds bloom! This goes down easier at first thanks to the fantasies getting visualized on screen—we see Kwanten's superhero mode, his homemade gadgets, and his invisibility cloak as they work in his head. It isn’t until outside life interferes that we eventually get a glimpse of him as the rest of the world sees him, a weirdo sneaking around in a rubber outfit, with a set-up of old computer monitors in his living room and no costumed enemies outside waiting, just neighbors ready to file stalking charges.
That reveal makes Griff The Invisible's case for the imaginary hard to swallow and a lot less like one for letting your freak flag fly, especially when that means being a 28-year-old who's incapable of holding down employment and who might be a danger to himself. The little glimpses of everyday magic on offer here are lovely, from a “universe suit” to a porous apartment door, but they're not enough to hang a film or a life on.