The Other Fellow15
As he sat in front of his typewriter about to bring a British secret agent to life, writer Ian Fleming had to first contemplate what to call him. As he admits in this film, he wanted a “flat, quiet name”. He then noticed a book in his collection Birds of the West Indies and was taken by its author’s name – James Bond. And the rest, as they say, is indeed history.
It is a name that has gone on to have a formidable legacy on the big screen, becoming one of the most recognised characters of all time. So imagine then, the reaction that all those who share the name as their own, and what they have to go through on a daily basis. This is their story.
Director Matthew Bauer’s film is a well observed take on how many people named James Bond cope; after all, you just know that when someone asks for your name, it will invariably relate back to 007. And as all the contributors admit to in this film, it can be both a blessing and a curse.
But as well as look into a wide ranging number of Bond’s and their lives, it’s also a documentary about identity, and how one common name goes some way to define you, whether you like it or not.
Much like Fleming’s Bond, all those featured are characters, with their own stories to tell. And there’s a curious mix here that include someone who wasn’t born a Bond, but changed his name to it, and has gone on to embrace the British spy full on – perhaps a little too much.
Then you have someone else who was convicted of murder, while another chose to change his surname completely due to all the baggage that comes with being a Bond.
And then there’s a fascinating story that feels a little out of place at first, as it’s darker in tone and involves domestic abuse. But even then Bauer skilfully brings it all together, lifting the mood once again.
Of course there are worse names to have, just imagine being called James Saville or Adolf Hitler for instance. But Bauer’s film does a swell job of highlighting the issues one can have, living with a name forced upon you, that also has such wide mass cultural recognition.
It does have a few cringey moments, both intentionally, such as the Swedish self-named Bond, and unintentional, with the awkward dramatic reconstructions that don’t work at all.
Overall however, Bauer impresses with his diverse collection of Bonds, particularly addressing the original Ornithologist Bond, as he explores with charm and flair, not only the notion of what’s in a name generally, but more specifically one of the most recognisable names on the planet.
The film may also leave many of its audience with a welcome sense of relief, in not having a name that’s an automatic conversation starter, which is something we can all live without.