Buddy film explores bonds in face of turmoil, implores audience to make the most of each day

This month, Netflix dropped a considerable number of new original films for viewers to enjoy. Among the most recent additions to Netflix’s selections is Paddleton, Alex Lehmann’s latest drama.

Paddleton tells the story of Michael—portrayed by Mark Duplass—a 40-something bachelor who spends his days watching movies and playing board games with his neighbor and best friend Andy—played by Ray Romano. 

After Michael is diagnosed with a terminal illness, he and Andy decide to spend Michael’s last days together. As Michael’s condition worsens, he and Andy must navigate all their treatment options while simultaneously enjoying their limited time together.

Paddleton is an incredibly heartwarming, intimate film that benefits from a tight focus on its two central characters. While not a whole lot happens throughout the film in terms of plot, the limited scope manages to resonate emotionally with the audience thanks to excellent acting and a phenomenal script. 

The highlight of Paddleton is its two leading men. Romano and Duplass have some of the best on-screen chemistry which makes their friendship seem believable and interesting. The film utilizes the comedic chops of both actors to great effect, resulting in plenty of friendly banter between the two protagonists that helps lighten the film’s mood. Much of this dialogue is improvised, allowing the comedic talents of both actors to shine. 

Despite many hilarious exchanges throughout the film, both leading actors also give it their all when it comes to the dramatic scenes. When the plot calls for a more serious tone, both actors give heart-wrenching performances that let the audience glimpse the fears and sorrow each character is experiencing as a result of Michael’s illness.

In particular, the final act  is incredible. Between a great score and a great Romano performance, this scene encapsulates the film’s ability to walk the line between morose and lighthearted masterfully. 

The film effectively encourages the audience to enjoy and laugh at the small-scale events happening despite death constantly looming overhead. Paddleton forces audiences to see the value of the little things and enjoy a fun journey despite its inescapable end. 

This focus on small-scale events may make the film feel a bit slow throughout, but the overall pacing of Paddleton is consistent. There’s never a moment where the dialogue goes on long enough to become irritating or the comedic and dramatic tones of the film clash overtly. Scenes with different tones are edited together in a way that flows evenly and offers the audience a full range of emotion without awkwardly going back and forth. 

The camera work and editing in Paddleton are well done and lend themselves well to the small-scale focus of the film. The cinematography is interesting enough to keep the audience engaged but is often comprised of slow, lingering shots that keep the focus on the characters and dialogue of the scene. The editing is similarly minimalist but does what it has to do to make Paddleton the best it can be.

Overall, Paddleton is a beautiful film that shows how strong friendship can be in the face of adversity. Romano and Duplass both display incredible acting range and have brilliant chemistry that sells their relationship to the audience. 

The film is also held up by apt pacing, a wonderful script and effective editing and cinematography. While Paddleton certainly isn’t a happy film, it teaches us how to appreciate those around us and make the most of every situation, good and bad.