top of page


The Rulebook

average rating is 1 out of 5


Joe Beck


Posted on:

Dec 9, 2023

Film Reviews
The Rulebook
Directed by:
Written by:

Nonsense has existed in cinema from the early days. From the surrealism of Salvador Dali and Luis Buñuel in films such as ‘Un Chien Andalou’ and ‘L’Age D’Or’ in the 1920s and 1930s, to the Marx Brothers, to more recently Charlie Kaufman, through the likes of ‘Being John Malkovich’, ‘Synecdoche, New York’, and ‘I’m Thinking of Ending Things’. The key to such surrealist cinema is that a clear narrative thread remains throughout, or, in the absence of that, that the overall messaging of the film is concise and nuanced in what it is attempting to convey to the audience. ‘The Rulebook’ is surrealist cinema with neither of those things, and as such it is nonsense cinema and a pain in the head.


The film is split into five vignettes, all presented in the classical surrealist style of Dali and Buñuel but lacking any of their artful precision in concealing a message in plain sight within the madness. Next to nothing makes sense throughout, as the film covers absurdities such as the war that humanity is waging against roads (which has potential to be funny but instead overdoes the joke, and lacks the subtlety needed to present such an absurdist concept), before settling into the more mundane efficiencies of school life. These include, p.e. uniform, laptop policies, exam timetable and a refund policy for the school. These are all head achingly filled with gibberish spewed too quickly to truly have an effect, and no gag is delivered well enough to land.


This is the humour often found on TikTok, gaining notoriety for its sheer randomness and ability to appeal to an audience seriously lacking of any attention span. Information is delivered at too fast a brain for any of it to really register in your mind, instead all being swept under the broad brush off being bizarre. This means that throughout there is not a single aspect of the story, or a single character (though a guy goofily named Timothy is a constant) that you can connect with, thus making watching ‘The Rulebook’ both a head achingly painful and an extremely distant experience.


Furthermore, the film lacks any visual style beyond the black and white filter over it, and the numerous fast cuts between clips, many of which are internet footage that intersperse the actual film. Is it irreverent, yes, but this doesn’t mean that it is filmed in an interesting or creative way, rather it is filmed in a manner that suggests that the director believed themselves to be inventive, when really just failing to adhere to the basics, the rulebook perhaps, which all directors, even those aforementioned surrealist auteurs, follow for good reason.


‘The Rulebook’ is a poor example of surrealist cinema, one which isn’t even befitting the name surrealist and more deserving of the term nonsense or mad. It’s a film which lacks both creativity and respect for filmmaking in general, instead playing to a younger audience with a far smaller attention span. Each of its vignettes are different, though they all blend into one amorphous blob, including the one called refund policy, something you may need to search for even though you’ve watched ‘The Rulebook’ free of charge.

About the Film Critic
Joe Beck
Joe Beck
Short Film
bottom of page