TITO, written and directed by Grace Glowicki, is the story of a recluse, an emotionally damaged man hiding from the world. It premiered this year at the Final Girls Berlin Film Festival, a horror film festival that showcases work by women and non-binary filmmakers. According to the website: “Our definition of women includes anyone with female experience –past or present– and is trans-inclusive. Anyone who feels addressed by the term is welcome to submit their films to the festival.”
TITO is the story of a new friendship and how it unfolds when one person is too damaged to interact with people. Tito, the main character — a tall, lanky, wormy man with long black hair suffers from PTSD. In the opening of the film, he has a panic attack in his kitchen — the running sound of a refrigerator is too much for Tito, his body is primed for defeat. He has anxiety attacks after hearing trivial sounds, which is why he never leaves his house. He can’t function in society. How did he become like this?
The character Tito is played by the writer/director Glowicki and it’s a bold physical performance that’s almost too painful to watch. Tito crawls through life bent over and hunched in a constant state of cringe. Something bad has happened to Tito. We don’t know what. He carries a whistle around and blows it when he’s overwhelmed with anxiety, in what feels like an exercise to relieve stress; or is he calling for help?
Help comes from the call regardless, help in the form of a new ‘friend’ who badgers his way into Tito’s life. John, played by Ben Petrie, is a stoner who says “dude” repeatedly. Later on, he says “they’re gonna get some pussy” in a bro-frat tone so many times, I’m quite sure he’s never tasted it. But that’s not his only flaw — he’s overbearing and intrusive, but under the guise of being nice. Tito is a loner who might not want friends but John forces his friendship on him. He cooks Tito breakfast, gets him high, chills him out, and then offers him some slacker life lessons on how to relax and be a person. Maybe he’s not so bad?
It appears as if John wants to help Tito — after making pancakes, he walks him through a garden of sunflowers and counsels him on the world in a rambling feel-good monologue. Then he tries to teach Tito to fight in a fun scene, where they fly at each other with kicks and half-hearted sweeps. But there’s something unnerving in the way John treats him. He’s guiding and domineering and friendly but he’s almost too friendly. What’s John’s deal? Does he want to help Tito or does he want Tito to admire him? I get the sense that John needs a little brother to boss around to feel good about himself — and that he doesn’t care about Tito, he’s using him.
What bad thing happened to Tito? I suspect assault because he’s terrified of noise which implies that he’s been attacked at some point in his life. People who have been assaulted or beaten as children often end up with PTSD as adults, which would explain why Tito is afraid of having a social life. But I think the director/writer intended for TITO to be the story of a man hiding from possible sexual predators after being assaulted, according to the kickstarter for the film.
If TITO is a character study of a man who has been sexually traumatized then it forces us to acknowledge that assault happens to each gender. Rape is a horrific crime that happens to cis men too, but society doesn’t treat male assault with the same level of compassion. It’s a topic that’s rarely explored in cinema as if it is too taboo to examine. According to studies, male rape is under-reported even more so than women. I wonder why so many men write movies where women are raped but so few films where men are raped? Perhaps because they aren’t allowed to tell their own stories?
The singular part of the film is Glowicki’s physical performance as Tito. Glowicki inhabits him — his face bent in pain, dragging about the house, clutching his face in desperation. We don’t often see women performing physical or demanding roles like Tito in film or TV. TITO is an extreme study in physicality. Glowicki does a great job creating Tito’s bizarre posture and anguished grimace, it’s almost too much for the screen but perhaps that’s the point: Tito is too much, he feels too much, for the world is too much.
If you’re a physical comedian or performer, you won’t want to miss TITO, it’s a great example of a multi-talented writer/director creating their own work to explore characters that we hardly ever see in cinema. The Final Girl Berlin Film Festival can be reached at email@example.com; on twitter @finalgirlsfest; or an Instagram @finalgirlsfilmfest. Check out their social media and give them a follow!