Toto the Hero is the debut feature from once circus clown Jaco Von Dormeal. Much like his vaudevillian history, this is a film which is simultaneously elegiacal and lightly humorous.
An eccentric vision of what might have been, Toto is the detective pseudonym for withering man Thomas. Opening with a trip down memory lane, the old boy tosses in his sleep, wrestling with his lifelong belief that he was inadvertently switched at birth with another baby during a hospital fire. From here, the film separates into tripartite mosaic storytelling, with three ages of Thomas – young, middle-aged and elder – exploring the character’s imagination, the harshness of real life, and the eidetic meddling of the two.
Thomas is a particularly whimsical child. Riddled with torment from the local kids, he is tormented most by looking over the fence at his arch nemesis Alfred; the boy Thomas believes hijacked the life of decadence and privilege which he was born in to. Thomas’ envy takes route further when he catches glimpse of Alfred growing fonder of his chirpy sister Alice, whom he too is secretly infatuated with. A complex, at least once-over incestuous love triangle, Thomas plays detective tennis with various snapshots of his life, piecing up the puzzle and looking for the answer to his eternal unfulfilment.
A densely written eulogy, successfully fleshed out onto the big screen to much aplomb by a beautiful score from the director’s brother Pierre, a magnetic performance from should-have-been star Thomas Godet, and attractively warm cinematography by Walther van den Ende. Toto the Hero is a cosy film, just as long as you stay patient and aren’t totally freaked out by the nonchalantly expressed incest subtext.