You’ll understand when you get divorced someday!
Director : Stephen Dunn
Cast : Connor Jessup, Aaron Abrams, Joanne Kelly, Aliocha Schneider, Jack Fulton, Sofia Banzhaf and Mary Walsh
Diverting away from films I found in a pile of VHS tapes whilst at the house of my parents, I’m going to look into a film that has been on my Youtube playlist for some time now. I really should get through that list properly as there are some films that have been on there for a few years.
Those of you who are long term readers of this site know that reviewing smaller, independent films meant that I was able to discover up and coming directors such as Xavier Dolan, so to have a film that describes itself as part him, and part David Cronenberg (another great director), is a treat, and one that I couldn’t resist.
If it can be even remotely similar to Dolan’s efforts then I will be very happy as he is arguably the most accomplished director when it comes to LGBT films, but whether it turns out to the the case is another matter as for all I know it could be nothing like either of them, let alone the two combined, but we’ll see.
Oscar’s (Fulton – Child, Older – Jessup) parents split up when he was a child and his only companion was his pet hamster, who he imagines talks to him. His friends also suspect that he will grow up to be gay, but after being called on it he follows a bunch of teens visually beating another young man, ending with them shoving a pipe up his rear. He is traumatised by what he sees and his father Peter (Abrams) says that it happened because he was homosexual, further worrying Oscar.
Several years later Oscar is involved in a photography project with Gemma (Banzhaf) in the hopes of moving to New York when he meets a new co-worker named Wilder (Schneider). Oscar finds himself being sexually attracted to Wilder, but is still haunted by the incident with the brutalised teen from several years prior. This new connection with his feelings coincides with a breakdown in the relationship with Peter.
Oscar and Wilder begin to bond, but a brief conversation between the latter and Peter leads to more trouble as he believed that Oscar and Gemma were in a relationship. Peter slowly starts putting the pieces together and realises that his son might be homosexual.
So is it a genuine mix between Dolan and Cronenberg
For the first time in a long time after seeing a description like that, I feel that I can genuinely see why it was made, and for once I fully agree. There are definitely similarities in the techniques of film making, and I would argue that there is also a touch of Nicolas Winding Refn in there as well. It takes the best aspects of the three whilst feeling completely unique, and this is only a good thing.
The characterisation in the film is remarkable, with the relationship between Oscar and Peter being exceptionally well developed. Their interactions with each other get more and more tense as the film goes on, especially as the latter starts to realise his son’s sexuality. It is an interesting dynamic and the best part is that whilst Peter is as close as the film comes to having an antagonist, he is certainly not an awful human being.
Peter is clearly going through issues throughout the whole film as he struggles through his separation to the point where he keeps his ex-wife’s belongings around, and how he gets hurt when he finds that Oscar described him as a deadbeat in an art project. There are glimpses of him being a good dad, such as the scene right at the beginning of the film where he pretends to inflate a balloon with a dream and place it into Oscar’s head, but he lets the issues get on top of him and each good deed is countered by the opposite.
He is just one of the several captivating characters in the film and visuals definitely aid you falling into Oscar’s world as he struggles to come to terms with what he saw as a youth. This includes a scene in which he is having sex with a man at a party, visualises the brutal attack from his youth, and then imagines himself vomiting screws and a variety of other similar objects.
Make no mistake, this is a visually brutal film, but it is also a captivating experience and it is one of the best LGBT films I’ve seen in recent years, and comfortably one of the most unique films from any genre that I have reviewed for this site. This is helped by the excellent electronic soundtrack, bringing you into this world.
Stephen Dunn is a director that I will be keeping a keen eye on in the near future and if he can produce something as engaging as this on a large scale, he could achieve the same heights of the aforementioned three directors.
Stephen Dunn has fell well and truly onto my radar with his mix of Xavier Dolan, Nicolas Winding Refn and David Cronenberg, and this is about as fresh as I have seen in a long time, certainly for a film in the LGBT genre.
I would thoroughly recommend “Closet Monster” and the films of Stephen Dunn will hopefully appear on this site again.