We’ve all had that feeling of being out of place, of feeling uncomfortable in a group of people that you don’t know.
But when that feeling of exclusion is fueled by what one attributes to be the isolation of their race, that feeling becomes an even more palpably disturbing one. Racial identity and tension also happens to be a subject matter white-hot to today’s cultural conversation and is
the concept that writer and director Sebastián Silva explores in his latest film, Tyrel.
The story of a man of color feeling out of place during a drunken weekend away with the boys, the easy first comparison to make might be to last year’s smash horror flick Get Out – a comparison not far off when comparing both movies premises’ alone. But when all is said and done, Silva’s micro-budget movie doesn’t deliver on any of the tension-filled threads that it teasingly dangles, which is only a little bit of a let-down knowing that Silva can do horror movies as seen in 2013’s Magic Magic starring Juno Temple and Michael Cera.
However, when one sifts past the disappointment of essentially non-plot, one is able to see that Tyrel might be Silva’s most rich character study yet. Silva, who shoots all of his own movies and handheld, maneuvers around freely and untethered to capture raw, authentically felt performances from each of his actors, who are among some of the best young actors working in film today. And while Tyrel also feels like the most limited in scope compared to his other films, this style of quick and dirty film-making lends well to Silva’s preference to make movies with his friends on the cheap.
An altogether dude-fest of a movie, Tyrel explores what it feels like to be the odd man out. Tyler (Jason Mitchell) – not Tyrel, as new acquaintances mistakenly call him upon botched introductions – agrees to a weekend away with friends of a friend (Christopher Abbott) where he meets the birthday boy (Caleb Landry Jones) and rest of the guys, all buffoonish dudes fuming out leftover college partying as they pour whiskey and roll joints, leaving Tyler to smile sheepishly along.
Those who have seen Silva’s movies know that he works quickly and cheaply, so it’s hard to knock a film like this for being anything more than a time spent with friends.
More friends arrive (all white, or Chiléan) including Alan (Michael Cera), a wealthy jerk who touches on race in the movie’s more obvious moments – he wears a wet-suit and jokes to the group that he’s the second person of color at the party – to which Tyler’s discomfort is felt further, prompting him to outrace the gang in consuming more Irish coffees and joints and end up in dizzying paranoia.
Tyrel executes on the sense of isolation and feeling out of place, but the evidence supports that the movie isn’t exactly politically charged with overt racism (thinly veiled racism?) that the friends evoke. Really, frat-boy machismo energy is the main offender here, and I would actually be hard-pressed to find a woman who didn’t feel isolated themselves watching this male-aggression movie in what might be an ironic twist. Notably, Tyrel‘s entry into this year’s U.S. Dramatic Competition category at Sundance makes Silva the first person to have a movie play in all six major categories at the festival, which might end up being the film’s most noteworthy accomplishment.
86 min. ‘Tyrel’ is not yet rated.