In The Middleman, Frank, a man who has suffered from long term unemployment, must take on the role as of “middleman” in the town of Karmack, USA. Broken by their own pain, Karmack is a town that is so depressed that they require a professional middleman to give any bad news to people. This responsibility falls to Frank, who is given the extreme burden of a job nobody wants. (After all, this would be one of the most emotionally draining roles that one could do for a living.)
Initially, it seems as though Frank has been thrust into this role without choice. But, as the film unravels, it becomes clearer that Frank has actually chosen the role and did so out of guilt. Dealing with the shame of a tragic event from his childhood, Frank has lived in regret and guilt his whole life. As such, this job is his way of making amends for his guilt. He has to be the one to deliver bad news to people, to be the middleman and take in all the anger, grief, and frustration to those that he must deliver the bad news. It’s his way of getting what he thinks he deserves. This self-destruction only further worsens his mental health. Anytime that Frank is in a position of good fortune, he’s unable to bear it and does something destructive to his life in order to off-set the blessing.
If you think about it, Frank really is the villain of the story. No matter how guilty he feels, how much he tries to redeem himself, Frank continues to make the lives of those around him—and himself—worse. Because of his actions, Frank’s continues to harm those around him, despite his intent. As people, we want to improve on ourselves and be better yet sometimes we fail. In this way, Frank is the ultimate failure. The wild moments that unravel around him help Middleman to become a great dark comedy that entertains.
Overall, Middleman takes the viewer on a journey with Frank, a middleman for bad news. With some solid dialogue and brutal moments, the film is really a journey of a man with one of the most emotionally crushing jobs possible who is simply trying to rectify his guilt and overcome his past.
The Middleman is currently playing at the Toronto International Film Festival.