Review – Daniel Isn’t Real (2019): Fantasia International Film Festival!

by Vincent Leblanc

My only screening on Day 14 of the Fantasia International Film Festival  was a late selection for me, the Canadian Premiere of the US fantasy/horror thriller film Daniel Isn’t Real. The film had its World Premiere at SXSW back in March, where the poster you see above (designed by an artist named Jock) won the Excellence in Poster Design in the SXSW Film Design Awards section. The film has also played in many other festivals since then.  

The film was written by Brian DeLeeuw and Adam Egypt Mortimer, based on the novel “In This Way I Was Saved” written by Brian DeLeeuw. It was directed by Adam Egypt Mortimer. The film was produced in parts by SpectreVision, in which Elijah Wood is a partner. 

Daniel Isn’t Real stars Patrick Schwarzenegger (son of Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger), Miles Robbins (son of Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins), Mary Stuart Masterson, Sasha Lane, and Hannah Marks.

The host for the festival welcomed director Mortimer to the stage. Mortimer thanked us for being there. He didn’t want to say too much about the film but he talked a little about his past experience at Fantasia and how his first film shown here in 2015 helped him get financing for Daniel Isn’t Real. He hoped we would like the film and said he’d be back for a Q&A after the screening. 

“Daniel Isn’t Real” tells the following story (copied from the Fantasia website):


“College freshman Luke has to leave his mentally ill mother behind and live his own life. He quickly realizes his social ineptitude and his inability to deal with his problems, and turns to the most unlikely of places for help — his childhood imaginary friend Daniel. A perfect doppelganger to Luke, Daniel’s slick, bold confidence and charm seeps into Luke’s life, turning him from dud to stud. But Daniel’s audacious and grandiose exterior quickly begins to crack, revealing an increasingly sadistic and violent core. As Daniel’s stranglehold on Luke’s psyche tightens, Luke starts to question who, or what, Daniel really is…”

I didn’t originally select Daniel Isn’t Real for my festival because I already had 28 other screenings planned. Plus, there was no trailer available before the festival began. However, a trailer was released a few days prior to this screening and it got me intrigued. So, I bought my ticket. 

We’ve obviously seen the doppelgänger storyline before. In certain films, it’s a twist, in others, it’s in your face. In the case of Daniel Isn’t Real, the answer is in the title (or is it?). One way or the other, it wasn’t unreasonable to think that the “twin” would have evil motives. Still, I was interested and entertained by the dark story this film told. And there are some really intriguing surprises in store. I might be a bit too dumb to understand the deeper meaning of the film but whatever. 

The film has various solid production values, from art direction to cinematography (and colors) to sound and finally makeup special effects. It all helped build the creepy, psychedelic universe the film has.  

Both Robbins and Schwarzenegger were great in their roles. They did a great job of playing off each other. Masterson offered great support in the role of Luke’s mother. 

It was announced a little over two weeks ago that Samuel Goldwyn Films will release Daniel Isn’t Real in limited theaters and VOD platforms on December 6th. It will then be released on Shudder probably in 2020.


I am giving Daniel Isn’t Real a 3.75 out of 5 Hairpieces!

Here’s a teaser trailer for the film: 

An interview with director Adam Egypt Mortimer at Fantasia:

#Fantasia2019 #FantasiaFest #DanielIsntReal

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