Though Morgan Spurlock made the simple video diary documentary an ironically palatable offering with Super Size Me, several filmmakers starting out have seen the merits of the formula and taken it to their hearts. Can Finnish director Petri Luukkainen’s effort size up then with its take on materialism and modern life?
Doing the near opposite of what Spurlock set out to explore, Luukkainen’s not gorging on the excesses available to him, rather he’s restricting luxury. Choosing to put all his earthly possessions into storage for a year, he allows himself to take one item a day from the pile and see how he copes without the ‘stuff’ which he admits, characterised his life.
So, starting the film naked, running in the snow certainly catches the audience’s attention, and indeed it’s the odd stunt like this which gives the film a more comic edge at first that sadly disappears as the project becomes a tad more discursive.
Without the charm or striking personality of Spurlock, Luukkainen comes across as a pleasant but slightly dull screen presence, which is a shame given it’s the lighter moments in the film which allow him to present himself in a positive light. When the film moves into its more rhetorical questioning mode in the second half it loses that spark, instead dwelling a little too long on the necessity of possessions in our busy, modern lives.
Oddly enough then, given the idea and material, My Stuff would probably suit a fictionalised dramatisation more, and indeed any possible remake may choose this route to explore. It’s those moments when you don’t feel Luukkainen’s trying to ‘act’ and theorise that come across best; the simple pleasure taken from rediscovering the joy of a mattress or realising just how effective email, rather than text, can be to manage friendships.
Aside from the odd discussion with family or friends though this is really a one-man affair, and as the film moves into its third act – introducing a second lead character of sorts, his new girlfriend – things begin to resemble normality once again. Whether you’ll take as much from it as Luukkainen depends on how much ‘stuff’ surrounds you as you’re reading this. One thing’s for sure – we’d all take the same first possession though. If you want to know what that is then you’d better go through My Stuff.