THE OTHER FELLOW: 4 STARS. “an intriguing and well packaged look at James Bonds.”
There’s an old proverb that reads, “Words have meaning, names have power.” “The Other Fellow,” a new documentary now paying in select theatres and on VOD, examines the power, along with the blessings, curses and the potentially life changing effects, of sharing a name with one of the most famous fictional characters of all time, super spy James Bond.
Like any good 007 film, “The Other Fellow” hops around the globe from Canada and the United States, to Guyana, Baghdad and Sweden, among other exotic locales, to tell its story. But unlike the proper Bond movies, this globe-trotting doc isn’t about high tech gadgets or supervillains. This is a study of identity, of the power of a name, thrust upon the film’s subjects at birth, to influence the path of the bearer’s life, particularly in our digital age.
From the amusing—several “Bonds” complain about hearing the same “shaken not stirred” jokes everyday of their lives—to the sinister—an African American Bond describes being jailed for 60 days for obstruction of justice for “playfully” saying his name to a police officer—director Matt Bauer examines the issue from several viewpoints.
The result is a funny, yet poignant film that entertains as it tackles big societal and personal issues. There’s a murder mystery, a story of abuse and a name change, all woven together to complete a portrait of how the aura of masculinity of the associated name comes loaded with challenges and unwanted attention.
Some have capitalized on the name. A New York theatre director reluctantly does a Bond style commercial for a casino, even though he has nothing in common with the character except the name. “He has a six-pack. I have a keg.”
Gunnar Schäfer, a Swedish man abandoned by his Nazi deserter father, filled the familial gap in his life with Bond, changing his name and adopting a 007 lifestyle and even opening a James Bond museum. In the embrace of the name, his story differs from the rest, but his obsession sheds light on the way a name can change the path of a life.
“The Other Fellow” isn’t a James Bond film, or a film about James Bond films. Instead, it is an intriguing and well packaged look at what it is like to be James Bond, or at least carry his name.