The film has a very unique narrative in that it is a story within a story, within a story (if that makes any sense) and similar to Kaufman's Adaptation, it's explores the difficulties of the writing process. However, it differs by focusing much more of its attention on the fictional characters created by the author. Or more specifically, the protagonist of the fictional work. Harold Crick (Ferrell) is an IRS agent who lives a very lonely and routine life who is unaware that his every move is being dictated by a higher power. No, not God (although one can make that distinction); but a female author (played by Emma Thompson). Being the fictional character in a story that she is writing about, he starts to hear her narrating his life in his head and panics like anyone in this particular situation would. In the mean time, he becomes smitten with a beautiful tatooed baker named Ana Pascal (Maggie Gyllenhaal) with an attitude problem since he is in investigating her tax reports. She initially gives him the cold shoulder for being an auditor but even she can't resist his good nature and begins to fall for him. Gyllenhaal has a certain sweetness about her that is infectious and she is just so darn likeable here.
There's a real sense of pathos here stemming from these wonderfully drawn characters. Without giving much more of the plot away, the film unfolds in an unpredictable fashion as Crick discovers to finally live for the first time in his life once the barriers within his constrained universe begins to crumble. Even though the last act didn't particularly work for me because of its contradictory nature (which I am coming around to appreciating the more I dwell on it), the film was still a fascinating character study and the contrast between fiction and real-life is handled magnificently. I took a particular liking to the use of religious parables but that is only one interpretation that the film offers. There's much going on beneath the surface and audiences can take so many different things away from it. Simply put, an astounding film that I can see returning to in the near future.