Downsizing review: Four years after the stunning Nebraska, Alexander Payne returns with this incredible, shrinking-man movie.

Downsizing review by Awais Irfan.

Downsizing review
Downsizing review

Four years since his last film, the Academy-Award nominated Nebraska, and director Alexander Payne finally returns with a bang with his latest film: Downsizing.

Matt Damon is Paul Safranek, a kindly occupational therapist. Him and his wife, Audrey (Kristen Wiig), are looking for a new home but, strapped for cash and wanting more out of life, the pair decide to “downsize” – a new procedure that shrinks its subjects to around 4/5 inches tall, one that is affordable and also environmentally friendly. Payne is perhaps best known for telling very different, very character-driven stories and Downsizing is no exception. This is as original and rich a story as they come.

Of course, similarly to Sideways and The Descendants, Downsizing is hilarious. It boasts a very mature, smart sense of humour – no low-brow poop and dick jokes, as we’d expect from something like, say, most mainstream R-rated comedies (here’s looking to you Baywatch). The writing is sharp and witty; Downsizing is a laugh-a-minute delight and easily one of the funniest films of the year. However, it also boasts plenty more than just some great comedic underlining.

This isn’t just a comedy. Downsizing is so much more. It’s very complex and nuanced; it’s a social satire and, thematically, rather fascinating. The themes and ideas on hand here – saving the environment; the world’s problem of over-population – are all very important and Downsizing addresses them in ways that are accessible but that never feels too heavy-handed either or as though they’re jeopardising the film’s enjoyment. However, if anything, this film perhaps feels more relevant and timely than ever before – given some of what is touched upon.

Related: Nebraska review

Alexander Payne has created something so extraordinary here. Not only is it hilarious but it’s massively compelling too, all whilst still boasting a big, beautiful heart. This is one of those rare mainstream films that are not afraid to have nuance and depth and challenge its audience and that’s what Downsizing does. Sure enough, it’s wildly entertaining but it’s equally as rich and enthralling with subtext and ideas. It’s superbly acted too, as it is directed. Matt Damon gives a brilliant performance – as always – and is joined by a handful of great supporting actors (and lots of exciting cameos too). However, it’s Hong Chau that is the standout here. She absolutely steals the show, giving a performance that is as funny as it is endearing.

Alexander Payne’s winning streak continues. Downsizing is a treat. It’s easily one of the funniest films of the year, but it’s also thought-provoking and touching too. It tells its story with such nuance and aplomb, permeated with such elegance and craftsmanship, to make for one of the finest – and, certainly, most surprising – films of the year. For a film all about the small, it has one big heart.

Downsizing review by Awais Irfan, October 2017.

Downsizing is released in UK cinemas on 19th January 2018.