The work of Paul Auster can be an acquired taste, but his Inner Life of Martin Frost is so sweet and harmless that even the most jaded of moviegoers ought to find it a breezy way to spend 90 minutes, lost in Auster's weird fantasy land.
Martin Frost (David Thewlis) is a novelist, and he's off to the country for a vacation after finishing his latest book and to work on a new story. No sooner does he fall asleep, though, that he wakes up to find someone else in his bed, Claire Martin (Irène Jacob), who initially says she was lent the house by the same guy who lent it to Martin. Funny coincidence, eh? Just like their names: His first is Martin, her last is Martin. It helps that she's a hot, exotic French beauty with an active libido, and soon she's got her top off as they roll around in the sheets.
When Martin talks to the cabin's owner, he finds that Claire isn't who she claims to be. Claire confesses, but can offer no details. They are in love now, and Martin decides to let the mystery of her past drop.
Strangely, as Martin gets closer to completing his story, Claire suddenly falls ill. The more he writes, the sicker she gets. What's going on here? To explain would be to spoil the mystery of Martin Frost's "inner life," but suffice it to say that, of the four characters in the film, only two are "regular" people like you and me.
Auster's trifle is fun and light, an Aesop's fable for the modern age. It is full of hope and good feelings, but it doesn't really make a lick of sense in the end. Not that that's a bad thing, really. The real problem here is that Auster only has about 50 minutes of material, and the film comes to an obvious halt midway through, before Auster tries to abruptly jump-start by introducing two new characters in an even stranger situation than Martin and Claire. A connection surfaces in the end, but the conclusion comes across as tacked-on, padded to get the thing to feature length. That's an unfortunate way to wrap up an otherwise sweet little movie. I'd have preferred it at 50 minutes.