Stuart Simpson’s Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla is a strange but welcome kind of cathartic character study. Warren (Glenn Maynard) is an ice cream man, he lives alone with his cat and tunes in daily to his favourite soap opera. However, after an awful accident, Warren’s life begins to spiral out of control: he becomes dangerously obsessed with his favourite soap star, a local drug dealer starts muscling in on his patch, and his sanity begins to disintegrate alarmingly.First things first, Glenn Maynard deserves an overwhelming amount of praise for his performance, considering the entire film rests on his laurels. Warren is a hop and a skip away from being a dull kind of caricatured loner, however his miseries are so tangible and Maynard’s performance so convincing, that the character never becomes unbelievable or boring. Maynard consistently combats the levity of a genuinely hilarious script through his downtrodden persona. The supporting cast are just as great: Aston Elliot has a great turn as the despicable dealer Rocko, whilst Kyrie Capri turns on the uber-sweetness as Warren’s dream-girl soap-star Katy George. Both actors are key players in maintaining a balance of hope and hopelessness, humour and horror.
Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla is a slow creeping kind of film, egged along by its own sense of humour and the audience’s desire to watch Warren fall apart at the seams. Warren’s daily life is unassuming and lonely, so much so that the climax becomes as shocking and, frankly, sad as it should be. Warren’s video diary of reactions to encounters with Katy, is at first almost endearing, if a little creepy. Slowly, tension mounts as Warren loses grip on reality, until he seems destined to a fully-fledged breakdown not dissimilar to the story of the Bjork stalker. The garish camp element built by dreamlike colouring and farcical endeavour is perfect for the story, highlighting every grimy part of the frame against the staunch whites and pinks of this tragic pop-bubble-gum venture.
This isn’t the first time Simpson has impressed with minimal budget and maximum creativity, his 2010 film Monstro del Mar was a welcome adventure into B-Movie madness, spinning a yarn that whizzed through Faster Pussycat Kill Kill! to arrive at a Harryhausen-esque monster finale. Simpson is clearly most comfortable across the shorter distance, here delivering incredible emotional whollop alongside his often nutty tale of obsession and ice cream.
A surprisingly well-conceived and executed feature, flaunting consistent warmth, wicked humour, and mounting unease. Maynard’s performance is the keystone to Simpson’s arch of black comedy, skilfully holding everything in place until a heart-breaking finale which will undoubtedly leave you shaken.