The year is 1968, and first-time inventor Foster Kalt (Mike Brune) has traveled to a toy convention hoping to sell his creation. A night of drinking and drugs with two other attendees ends in tragedy, but Sylvia (Tallie Medel) recognizes an opportunity for Foster to benefit from the situation.
A decade later, Foster has become the most famous and well-known toy creator in the world, an eccentric shut-in who avoids publicity, and at one point even takes a multi-year vow of silence. But when the time comes for him to unveil his newest creation, he allows a group of reporters into his home, and what begins as promotional interview slowly becomes a story of his ongoing obsession with Sylvia.
With The Arbalest, writer/director Adam Pinney has crafted a darkly comic tale of fixation and narcissism, and Brune is gleefully unhinged in the film’s latter half, but at only 76 minutes it feels as though some crucial elements are missing. Foster is the only character in The Arbalest that seems fully realized – despite the circumstances under which they meet, we never get a sense of what makes Sylvia so special, and why Foster would be so infatuated with her. Fleshing out the characters and their relationships a bit more would have done the finished film a great service, and the reveal of Foster’s final invention – which is admittedly crazy – might have landed a bit better.
Adam Pinney's tale of obsession is sprinkled with moments of superb pitch-black humor and a bizarre revelation in the third act, but its barely-feature-length running time leaves the overall experience feeling incomplete.