The Other Fellow Review

The Other Fellow
A documentary about real people named James Bond: delving into what it’s like to share the name with the world’s most famous super-spy, and how that kind of name can affect your life in surprising, far-reaching ways.

by John Nugent |

The Other Fellow takes its title from a line spoken by George Lazenby in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, a bit of dialogue (“this never happened to the other fellow!”) that gestured to the legacy of Sean Connery, who Lazenby was replacing in the role. It’s a nod that this is a film made by and for Bond fans — yet not necessarily about Bond fans. It is instead a film about people who, like Lazenby, have been forced to live in the shadow of a more famous James Bond.

Director Matthew Bauer goes on a Dave Gorman-esque quest to find as many people as he can who share that famously blunt, monosyllabic name with MI6’s finest, and in the process unearths some frequently funny, weird and interesting insights into masculinity, identity, and pop culture ubiquity. Most of the James Bonds he interviews share remarkably similar stories: they all acknowledge the name as both a blessing and a curse; they all admit that they could never live up to Bond’s charms or looks (nor necessarily do they want to); they have all had law enforcement assume they are taking the piss; and they all hear the same joke, every day, multiple times.

Ultimately, it’s a film about fairly ordinary people who regularly find themselves in fairly extraordinary situations

Naturally, your first question might be: what were their parents thinking? Many of them, to be fair, might not have realised the character’s longevity. Bond’s perennial success as a franchise has cursed these men to a certain life; there are few truisms in cinema, but one undoubtedly is that James Bond will return. It’s a curse that shows no sign of ceasing. Sensibly, some simply decide to change their name to something that will draw less attention.

For others, it’s a life they chose, rather than have it thrust upon them. One perma-tuxedoed Swedish eccentric adopted the moniker by deed poll, and actively lives the lothario life, with a 007 above his door (even though he lives at number 10). Another James Bond is re-named by his mother, so an abusive father can’t track him down; the Google search results would never be helpful there.

It even goes back to the source, exploring the original inspiration for the name, an ornithologist who wrote a book on Jamaican birds that author Ian Fleming enjoyed; when looking for a “really flat, quiet name”, he nabbed it. There are some nice titbits for fans of the series, then, and the film is framed as if a Bond-esque thriller itself, with tropes of the series (sweeping orchestral stabs, some light globe-trotting) neatly weaved in. Sometimes the budget can be felt here — actual clips from the films are notable by their absence — but it never feels like just one-for-the-fans. Ultimately, it’s a film about fairly ordinary people who regularly find themselves in fairly extraordinary situations, by virtue of their birth certificate. And that, it turns out, can be as compelling as any outlandish spy action setpiece.

No Martinis in sight, but this is still an extremely watchable look at a unique naming phenomenon — with surprisingly profound results.
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