TIFF 2021: “The Middle Man”

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Delivering good news is much more preferable to giving a bad one. No one wants to knock on someone’s door to tell that their loved ones, for instance, got into an accident, or worse. But when you get that type of job, how would you do it? What approach would you take to ease the heavy burden of truth you are about to release?

Frank lives in a small town plagued with tragedies. He is a calm, content and very reserved person. After being unemployed for a very long time, he finally gets his chance to become the new middle man. It seems he is meant for this job, as he has all the necessary pre-requisites to fulfill his duty – delivering the terrible news of death to the next of kin.

The film opens with an interview scene in which Frank calmly explains his job experience. He shares how he told his mother about the death of his father. As he describes that scene, no matter how absurd it may sound, Frank handles himself perfectly, as if he was talking about something insignificant. That scene alone introduces us to the man whose true personality as a middle man we are yet to discover. And when that happens, you will have to be ready for the big revelation and his ability to cross all the lines to keep the job he gets.

Directed by Bent Hamer, “The Middle Man” is rather a black comedy that explores the lives of people in a small town where, no matter how bad the situation is, they keep staying there as if there were no other places to move to. Accidents, disasters and an upcoming city decision to reduce the light in town does not bother its residents. So having Frank delivering any bad news seems to make no difference.

At some point, Frank complains to his friend Steve, “It is quiet at work. Not busy at all.” Then Frank notices, “It’s good news then, right? One week the town went on without a single death.” But Frank is too occupied by his job and obviously wants to show he can do better. And that’s the remarkable part of the storyline. We deal with someone like Frank, who is hard to crack. But what if someone crosses his path? Will he be as quiet and reserved as he appears to be? Will he continue being the middle man or become someone much worse? This film has all the required elements to unfold the mystery in tiny little details.

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