The searcher in The Search for Simon, playing tonight and tomorrow night at FilmBar, is David, a fortyish, unemployed “ufologist.” Simon is the younger brother, absent since they were kids, who David is convinced has been abducted by aliens.
He’s spent his whole adult life, and most of a substantial lottery windfall, traveling the world to supposed UFO hotspots from Denmark to Utah, or paying shady-seeming contacts for supposed leads to Simon’s whereabouts. He’s tried repeatedly, without success, to get into Area 51. His few friends, hopeless geeks themselves, are sick of his fixation, as is his careworn Mum.
David is played, well, by Martin Gooch, who also co-wrote and directed this low-budget Brit comedy. Gooch freely mixes a Monty Python/Douglas Adams/Simon Pegg-Edgar Wright style of silliness with a stingingly poignant backstory. The poignancy wins here, partly because the variable quality of some of the acting dulls the edge of the comic timing in the ensemble scenes, but also because—spoiler alert!—said backstory is really quite sad. Python alumnus Carol Cleveland, playing David’s mother, is given full-on tragic exposition to deliver, and does a creditably touching job of it. But the seriousness of this side of the material gives an uneasy tinge to the jolly side.
Having said this, I have to add that I appreciated the The Search for Simon’s experimentation with form. If it feels uneven, it’s because it’s original and inventive, and it marks Gooch as a talent to watch.