Count on the unexpected.
Those looking for a quirky story inhabited by believably flawed characters would do well to check out An Invisible Sign.
Mona Gray’s (Bailee Madison, Wizards of Waverly Place) tenth birthday featured her father telling a story about sacrifice and sticking together. When he becomes sick shortly after, Mona decides that sacrificing everything except the numbers she and her mathematician father (John Shea, Gossip Girl) love is how he will get better. Fast forward years later and a now grown Mona (Jessica Alba, Spy Kids: All the Time in the World) still lives her life this way, but it might end up costing her everything.
It’s an idea we can all get behind: someone we love gets ill and we bargain with God (the universe, etc.) in order to allow them to become better. That’s the impetus which gets An Invisible Sign off the ground and running. Mona Gray lets go of friends, exercise, movies, music, and everything she loves in order to guarantee her father will go back to being the loving, attentive man she has always known him to be. But as the years pass and her father does not recuperate, Mona starts to look to numbers, the subject she and her father adore, in order to provide answers. However numbers don’t do her much good when her mother (Sonia Braga, Brothers and Sisters) abruptly kicks her out of the family home and says it’s time for Mona to get a life. And that’s where the movie spends its remaining runtime.
This isn’t a movie about changing who you are; it’s about being okay with whoever that is. The best thing about this movie is that each and every character has their own demon, so to speak, which keeps them from being a perfect person, or in some cases even likable.
Can we agree that Jessica Alba is considered to be a very attractive woman? Good, because it’s important in order to truly appreciate what a fine job she does in An Invisible Sign. Mona Gray is not a beautiful woman, she never transforms into some stunning beauty halfway through in order to win over her true love or anything else so clichéd. Heck, you can count on one hand the number of times Jessica Alba smiles. And that’s why this film works…the characters demand that the actors commit wholeheartedly to them, not showing any cracks to the actor we know lies beneath. Alba does so with understatement, which absolutely works for me.
But she’s not alone. Jessica Alba’s Mona Gray doesn’t play without Bailee Madison’s portrayal of young Mona Gray, as we need to see the before in order to truly appreciate the after. And they’re surrounded by good performances from talents such as J.K. Simmons (The Closer) and Chris Messina (Damages).
The circumstances of the film do, at times, feel forced, as if the screenwriters were more concerned with showing us these characters rather than a believable world they inhabit. So if you’re a stickler for rules applying to the cinematic world, you are going to hate this movie. There are scenarios (like how Mona gets hired to become a grade school teacher, for one) which will drive you batty in their lack of realism.
But if you suspend your disbelief and accept that these characters and this world are not real, then you will enjoy your viewing much more. And while I never believed the way An Invisible Sign ended would play out like that in real life, the movie’s charm is such that I found myself hoping it could.
It’s not exactly neat and tidy, and in fact taking a step back reveals more questions unanswered going out than coming in. But it’s an introspective piece and one I didn’t mind watching.
An Invisible Sign is bookended with some truly beautiful animation and narration. I’m not usually a fan of narration, but in this case it works, providing necessary exposition which would just sound all ‘poor me’ if it was instead delivered as dialogue, and that would go against the movie’s theme entirely. The video is a beautiful 2.40:1/1080p which only shows the barest amount of grain during the outdoor night scenes but otherwise is reliable. The animation tests the video the most and it holds up well with richly saturated tones and nice texture mapping. The DTS-HD master audio level is definitely overkill for this release but I’d rather have too much than not enough when it comes to the dialogue especially.
The only special feature is a trailer for the movie.
While I was disappointed with the lack of special features, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend at least a rental of An Invisible Sign (Blu-ray) to anyone; a reminder that Jessica Alba can, in fact, act.