Over the weekend, I had the chance to view one of the Midnight films premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival, TILT. The film, which is directed by Kasra Farahani, gives us a glimpse into the deterioration of an unemployed documentary filmmaker as he comes to terms with his wife’s pregnancy. As the film progresses, we learn that he harbors a much darker side as the layers of his personality begin to peel back with devastating consequences.
The film starts off a bit slow as we learn about our main characters, Joseph (Joseph Cross) and Kendra (Jessy Hodges) Burns. On all accounts, they seem to live a normal life – Kendra is a nurse who recently found out she is pregnant and Joseph is the doting husband who works from home as a documentary filmmaker. The film focuses on the struggles that Joseph exhibits as he tries to maintain his calm exterior while preparing for a baby and working on his latest documentary. Once the viewer begins to see the changes happening within Joseph, the movie starts to pick up and we quickly descend into the madness that’s surrounding him.
I think what makes this film work so well is partly due to the acting of Joseph Cross. When we first meet his character he comes across as that boy-next-door nice guy. In the beginning the audience isn’t given any indication of what is going to transpire with Joseph so it’s easy to become attached to his character and to feel emotions for what he is going through. For me personally, my boyfriend is finishing up his first documentary and I can see how hard that is on him, so I immediately felt for Joseph and his struggles in making his newest passion project. By the time the shit really hits the fan, it kind of comes as a surprise because we originally saw Joseph as nothing more than a good guy who loves his wife.
As the film goes further into Joseph’s psyche and mental instability, we often see him playing with a pinball machine located in his home. We learn that his previous documentary was about the history of the pinball machine, titled TILT, and as the movie progresses we see the ferocity and frantic deterioration of his mental state in the way that he plays with the pinball machine. This machine becomes sort of a character within the film and is a focal point of symbolism for the transformation that Joseph is taking.
This isn’t a horror film in terms of monsters or supernatural demons. I looked at it as a horror film that was able to cast a light on mental illness and the extreme stress that comes from life changing events. However, with that said, that doesn’t mean that there was an absence of violence. The brutality that was shown was very realistic in nature and it lent itself to the story that was unfolding. I appreciated that the director didn’t insert gratuitous gore or violence because that aspect wasn’t what made the film so unsettling, it was Joseph’s decline. However, each time the violent side of Joseph rear it’s ugly head, it was done son in such a believable manner that it was hard not to look away from the screen.
Overall, TILT was a solidly executed thriller that stayed with me long after I had viewed it. It’s a film that relies upon the acting talents of its main characters and by choosing such strong actors it resulted in a believable and chilling portrayal of someone coming unhinged. Though the film is a definite slow burn, the payoff is worth it and there is an intensity within it that is seldom seen in other films. When it came to the pacing, I think director Kasra Farahani hit the nail on the head as he was able to create a sense of dread and discomfort without relying on over-the-top gore or cheap tricks. If you are a fan of movies that have a realistic feel to them and leave you questioning if you ever truly know the ones you love, then I highly recommend checking out TILT when it’s released on home video and/or VOD.