Review: ‘Armless’

Habib Azar's debut feature has only limited mobility as a drama and even less as a comedy.

“Armless” suggests director Habib Azar would gladly give a limb to make a shockingly funny and ultimately poignant indie, but this isn’t it. Featuring “Old Joy” co-star Daniel London as a despairing suburbanite who struggles to tell his wife that he longs to have “nubbins” in place of arms, Azar’s modestly budgeted debut feature has only limited mobility as a drama and even less as a comedy. Sales prospects look grim for a film whose one joke is both belabored and in bad taste, drawing as it does from a real-life condition known as Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID).

As Azar turns from failed humor to marital melodrama, London’s glum insurance exec — momentarily armed with a power saw — eventually explains his unusual urge as a desire to rid himself of his worst fear. Without arms, he figures, what more could he have to lose? Alas, psychology is yet another of the film’s weaknesses. Kyle Jarrow’s script is adapted from his own like-titled play, and bears some similarity to the recent indie about aspiring quadriplegics, “Quid Pro Quo,” but the definitive study of BIID remains Melody Gilbert’s 2004 documentary “Whole.”

Armless

Production

An Azar Prods. presentation. Produced by Jaimie Mayer, Carla Stuart. Executive producers, Habib Azar, Hsiano Bian. Directed by Habib Azar. Screenplay, Kyle Jarrow, from the play by Jarrow.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Orson Robbins-Pianka; editor, Sarah Smith; music, Azar; production designers, Eunice Bae, Ryan Kravetz; costume designer, Bae. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (Next), Jan. 22, 2010. Running time: 88 MIN.

With

With: Daniel London, Janel Moloney, Matt Walton, Zoe Lister-Jones, Laurie Kennedy, Keith Powell.

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