Tower (Director: Kazik Radwanski): As a fan of the director’s short films, I was curious to see whether his style could sustain a feature-length story. Placing the camera very close to his characters, Radwanski’s films are portraits of isolation. In Tower, we spend the entire film with Derek, a thirty-something loner who still lives in his parents’ basement. He works part-time for his uncle’s construction company while ostensibly pursuing his dream of becoming an animator. But we soon come to realize that his work isn’t very good, and that he’s only got 14 seconds of animation after working on it for months. His parents are endlessly supportive to the point of indulgence. It’s fairly clear they don’t quite understand their son.
Derek is frighteningly disconnected from everyone and everything in his life, and his efforts at flirtation at dance clubs or friendly banter with his co-workers is excruciating. Like Taxi Driver‘s Travis Bickle, what he really needs is a crusade, a mission. Being Canadian, his attempt to “clean up the streets” boils down to ridding his parents’ backyard of a particularly troublesome raccoon who’s been tearing up their garbage.
In the midst of this, he finds himself in an unlikely relationship with a woman he met at a club, but is unable to relate to her for any sustained length of time. The breakup scene is maybe the most awkward moment in a film filled with awkward moments. Derek is used to floating through his life, living in his own head, rejecting anything that seems new or uncomfortable. It’s like a particularly nasty form of arrested development where he’s stuck somewhere in his toddler years, self-centred and anti-social. When he does try to make small talk, it’s with the very meagre scraps of his life that he can articulate, like his animation.
When he finally traps the raccoon, it’s as if he is trying to get in touch with something primal in himself, perhaps his predator instinct. But even in this situation he fails to exert any control, allowing the creature to escape.
Even at less than 80 minutes, Tower feels claustrophobic. Derek’s social missteps and lack of direction are stifling to watch, and his failure to take advice from anyone is maddening to those of us who see his situation with a bit more perspective. Bogart’s performance is raw and real, and Radwanski’s documentary style captures it with immediacy. Tower is not an enjoyable film, but it is an unblinkingly truthful one.