07th Aug2017

Fantasia 2017: ‘Tilt’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Joseph Cross, Alexia Rasmussen, Kelvin Yu, Jessy Hodges, CS Lee | Written by Kasra Farahani, Jason O’Leary | Directed by Kasra Farahani

TILT_Poster_Final

All seems normal with Joseph and Joanne. Joanne is pregnant with their first child. Life in their little urban house is cozy and familiar. But something is off about Joseph. He doesn’t seem excited about the baby. Work on his documentary is becoming increasingly untethered. As Joseph struggles to maintain the routines of his domestic life, his mask begins to slip. Late at night, while Joanne thinks he is working, Joseph prowls the streets of Los Angeles, deliberately courting danger. Joanne is growing worried about Joseph’s odd behavior. But not as worried as she should be…

Billed as the first horror movie to address the current state of US politics, post Trump – in particular the volatile way in which racism has, for some, been given the green light by a President whose very mandate was to build a wall to keep out immigrants – Tilt is even more complex than that would suggest. Whilst the film touches on the “new normal” of privilege, entitlement and while male rage, Tilt is also an engrossing look at the gig economy and how chasing personal freedom (aka the American dream, something which the protagonist Joseph knows all too well) can have an adverse effect on one’s everyday life.

You see filmmaker Joseph was once famous for a pinball documentary he made. Now he spends his time watching old 50s newsreels, cartoons and propaganda videos, studying them intently for his latest documentary feature. When he’s not watching old news, Joe is watching fake news – footage of the new US President on CNN, promising the earth to everyday Americans on TV, to “make American great again”, all the while helping his cronies to get rich. It’s made clear from the outset that Joe is troubled and is doing nothing to help his mental state – in fact watching all that news, new and old, is only helping to accelerate his mental health problems. Health which deteriorate even moreso after spending all his time indoors, alone, after his wife returns to work. His behaviour is the VERY epitome of cabin fever.

Admittedly Joseph’s erratic behaviour starts off small. He watches as his wife bangs her head, doing nothing to stop it. He “accidentally” hits his wife’s hand with a shovel while gardening. But that is only the beginning… What we’re seeing in Tilt is the birth of a sociopath, the changing of man into a monster.

But what’s really odd about Joe is that he isn’t one of “those guys”, the intolerant, hate-filled bigots that feel empowered by the current US politcial scene; no Joe is a liberal, open-minded filmmaker – you expect one of “those guys” to go off on a stranger, not a liberal surely? Tilt speaks volumes about the depiction of the alt-right, alt-left, and the very idea of “them vs us” that is perpertrated by the mainstream media. Underneath it all we’re all the same. Joe’s actions are less of a man unleashed by the freedoms of hate-filled politics and more of a man who feels inadequate, feels disappointed in himself and whose judgement is clouded by his own sense of self-importance. Joe should (given his circumstance) be depressed, he should be seeking counselling, but instead his depression is manifesting as madness.

Marked by a stunning, measured, central performance from Joseph Cross, Tilt is less a diatribe against politics and more a very pertinent and timely cinematic story on mental illness and societal pressures – making it a perfect follow up, and companion to, Kasra Farahani’s The Good Neighbour.

**** 4/5

Tilt played the Fantasia International Film Festival on July 13/14th. Click here to check out the rest of our festival coverage.

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