The Other Fellow Review: The Real Life James Bonds
The Other Fellow dissects what the name James Bond means to real people around the globe who were born as the titular character in Fleming’s spy novels.
The Other Fellow is writer, director, and producer Matthew Bauer’s debut feature documentary. The film focuses on a group of men in various places around the world who are all named James Bond. Each Bond goes into detail what the name means to them, exploring the advantages of being called Bond and what unfortunate circumstances that the name has gotten them into. Through interviews, re-enactments and archive footage, Bauer traverses the true meaning behind the name James Bond, including the origins that Bond derived from.
Gunnar James Bond Schäfer, sitting just one seat to me to my left in the cinema, is the main star of The Other Fellow. Schäfer is even wearing a suit at 1pm on a Tuesday in sunny London to this extra special screening of The Other Fellow with Bauer also in attendance. Schäfer wasn’t born a Bond but became fascinated with everything and anything Bond after his dad left him and his two older siblings when he was younger and never returned. The obsession Schäfer has with Bond doesn’t end with the name change that he obtained in 2007 (007, how fitting) but expands far more. In fact, he has changed his house door number from 10 to 007, refuses to marry because Bond won’t marry, and most extravagantly, owns his own James Bond museum in Sweden. Schäfer is more Bond than Bond himself!
Another featured James Bond is James Bond Jr. of Pennsylvania. This particular Bond brings a happy go lucky attitude, smiling at any chance he gets. Alas, for this smiley Bond, his name has gotten him into trouble. Bond Jr. was sentenced to 60 days in prison for the sole reason he “jokingly said his own name”. Being named the same as a worldwide known phenomenon has had extreme disadvantages for Bond Jr., but he continues to remain optimistic for what the future may hold for him.
One story that strays slightly away from the main premise of The Other Fellow is the story of a female Bond. This time, Bauer interviews a woman who has been the subject of domestic abuse. In an attempt to run away and hide forever from her abusive ex-husband, our female Bond and her son acquire a name change. For obvious reasons, the female Bond’s name is never revealed, just that her last name is now Bond. As for her child, we welcome a new James Bond to the world!
When going into this film, there was no part of me that thought the subject matter would get as dire as it does. It’s compelling, yet sometimes heartbreaking. The tone is often balanced between jokes and different shifts in themes, but ultimately the name has done more bad than good for these certain individuals. No wonder a consideration in a name change has been contemplated by all of those in The Other Fellow.
What’s fascinating about Bauer’s The Other Fellow is that you really don’t know what’s coming next. All you know is that it’s going to feature a real life Bond. I found it to be a little jumpy at times, constantly going back to the same clips of Ian Fleming describing how he originated the name of James Bond. It’s not something we need to be told 50 times, once is good enough. However, the background knowledge is engrossing, especially as it’s told via archive footage of the original James Bond (an author who wrote Birds of the West Indies that Fleming owned) and Fleming in Goldeneye, Jamaica. Fleming even wrote to Bond telling him he was allowed to name any bird after him for potentially causing grief after the Bond films took off.
As a whole, The Other Fellow is intriguing. If you’re expecting action sequences like those in the real Bond movies, then don’t waste your time. It’s a very serious documentary that strays completely away from anything like Skyfall, Goldeneye and The Spy Who Loved Me. But if you’re interested in learning more about the genesis of the name James Bond, look no further. These are real people with real stories that have finally had the platform to be told.
The Other Fellow is available in UK cinemas and on demand from 19 May, 2023.