Director & Screenplay: Kazik Radwanski
Starring: Derek Bogart, Nicole Fairbairn
Runtime: 78 minutes
TIFF 2012 Programme: Discovery
Daring – the only apt word to describe an undertaking like Tower, which is a character study in its entirety. A project that requires a filmmaker to have an acute vision, interesting direction, relatable storyline and most of all, compelling characters; where one slight misstep would result in a hollow piece with little to show an audience.
Derek (Bogart) is a 34 year old living with his parents. He works construction by day, sawing wood and hammering nails with co-workers, under the supervision of his uncle. At night, he focuses on his one passion: animation. All he has to show for months of work is a clip of a green man in a cave, a few seconds which prompt admiration from his parents’ dinner guests, one of whom promptly offers to introduce him to someone in the industry; yet, Derek rebuts this offer. This is the character Director Kazik Radwanski has chosen to helm his film. A loner, who constantly questions the motives of others (who happen to be the same people he strains to impress), struggles with most basic social interactions, and refuses to commit to a career or relationship.
A template is set that should give the character ample room to grow as the film progresses. But, the plot hangs loosely in the air, with no real direction or points of contention. It’s too closely tied to Derek, who’s inept character fails to move it forward. Even the camera work attests to this with near constant closeups of Derek and his balding head, a zoom that is almost claustrophobic to the audience.
Every opportunity for development is snuffed out promptly by Derek. He meets a woman who attempts to be intimate with him. A raccoon continually ransacks the garbage in his backyard, taunting him to trap it. However, all these events fail to inspire Derek, or even push him towards self-analysis. A visit to the dentist adds a figurative element to the tale, angled wisdom teeth, long overdue for removal drawing parallels to Derek’s own approach to life.
For all it’s faults, Tower has the perfect actor to champion its message. Bogart’s performance is chillingly effortless, while his mannerisms and speech adds convincing depth. His indomitable presence holds the film together as it flows to an abrupt, unsatisfying end with only a glimpse of change or closure.
Radwanski puts forth a film that intently studies its character of focus with very mixed success. Derek might not be compelling or likable, but he represents a segment of a population that is still striving to find itself, stuck in a situation with opportunities that it refuses to grasp. Yet, the film lacks a draw, an element that would give the audience a reason to pay attention to Derek. Ultimately, Tower follows Derek too closely, and ends up in a mire of its own intentions.
Photo Credit: Toronto International Film Festival