Manu (Grégoire Ludig) and Jean-Gab (David Marsais) have achieved very little in life beyond their loyal and long-lasting friendship. Theirs is the kind of amiable numbskull buddy relationship that traditionally powers American slacker comedies such as Dude, Where’s My Car? and Bill & Ted. When Manu is hired to deliver a mysterious box, he takes Jean-Gab along for the ride. But this lunkhead road movie soon takes a detour into rather more offbeat territory. This is, after all, the latest film from France’s master of matter-of-fact absurdism Quentin Dupieux, whose previous films include Rubber, about a murderous car tyre, and Deerskin, which starred Jean Dujardin as a man possessed by the monomaniacal ambitions of his jacket.
Troubled by an odd rattling vibration, the pair discover a giant fly trapped in the boot of the car they had stolen for the trip. Jean-Gab, the more visionary of the two, names it Dominique, and suggests that they train it in order to make money. Everything in the film, from the washed-out colour palette to the bleary, riffing dialogue to the throwaway comedy, is understated – everything apart from the sheep-sized CGI fly. And it’s from this juxtaposition, between the mundane and the bizarre, that Mandibles draws much of its comic appeal. But while the film is very funny, what’s more unexpected is how curiously touching it is. As a portrait of friendship, viewed through the compound eye of a mutant insect, it is multidimensional and rather moving.