Review: The Arbalest (2016)


A despondent toy inventor recalls the story of his life and love in this odd black comedy from the writer of 2007’s Blood Car.

Adam Pinney’s The Arbalest has a lot in common with Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster. Both charter the trajectory of a sad man approaching a deep feeling existential angst in their lives. Both are about very messed up and failing would-be relationships. Both films also traffic in a bizarre realm of magical realism that is not like our reality. While The Lobster has captured a bit of the critical zeitgeist with its exploration of relationships in an almost dark surrealistic way, The Arbalest is much more ambiguous in its point despite being a much more linear film than The Lobster.

The Arbalest follows the life of Foster Kalt, a would-be toy inventor who we first meet in the 1960’s, pitching his balloon toy invention to Sylvia (Tallie Medel) and The Man in a Suit (Jon Briddell), who is also pitching a toy. Sylvia falls in love with Foster’s description of the inspiration behind his idea. The Main In a Suit is not impressed. But through a series of events, the Man in a Suit’s idea falls into Foster’s lap and he and Sylvia decide to take the idea and the credit for it. The man’s idea becomes the Kalt Cube; the most popular toy that ever existed. As such, news crews want to follow him and learn the story of his life throughout the 1970’s. But all he is concerned with is sharing the story of how his love for Sylvia never happened due to circumstance and to unveil his latest invention.


The Arbalest is a beautifully shot film. It uses varying effects/stocks to achieve the period looks reflecting when the movie is shot in 1968 and then the mid and late 70’s. Unfortunately, the movie drags do to its morose plot. At 76 minutes, the film feels twice as long and covers much of the same ground as The Lobster. Both have a bizarre Wes Anderson meets David Lynch vibe to them. Here, The Arbalest, has the same feel of overlong latter day Lynch films such as Inland Empire. The third act of the film lapses into full on magical realism to the point of absurdity and makes the film feel much more trite than it did to that point. Tallie Medel does well with her part in the film and makes us see how one could be obsessed with her. However, Mike Brune struggles to make Kalt feel like more than some caricature of Charles Foster Kane. Sylvia is not Rosebud and The Arbalest is not in any league close to Citizen Cane, it struggles to even be a Blood Car.