TYREL (2018) Review


Tyler has left his family to have a weekend with a friend and his friend’s buddies. Tyler quickly finds out that he is the only black person in the crowd. The white crowd gradually turns out to be made up of anti-Trump liberals with racist and sometimes homophobic and transphobic biases. (The name of the film actually comes from one of those friends calling him Tyrel instead of Tyler, establishing the lack of connection from the very beginning.) The theme of “racist liberal whites” has been at the center of a few films, especially over the past two years, since the election of Donald Trump. Get Out is probably the most famous one.

The biggest problem with Tyrel, however, is that it does not go beyond this central idea. From the beginning to end, the film reduces to be an exhaustion of this idea without much of a dramatic structure. The friends keep making Tyler uncomfortable and push him to the corner until he bonds with them and turns violent–well, relatively violent. The incident makes him realize he has become someone he himself doesn’t know, and he tries to escape the house.

Unfortunately, we don’t get to know much about Tyler. The film stays distant from him. We only know that he left his family for a weekend as a break and that he’s probably not a violent person—well, normally. Not much beyond that. The film stays emotionally distant from him too. While there are lots of close-ups of Tyler, he is a completely passive character who is not even consistent in his reactions to other people, and therefore, it becomes hard for us to empathize with him. Compare him with the main character of Get Out. See how, while Chris in that film is also passive in most of the film, he remains consistent and we get to know him better through how he reacts to the situations he gets in. Tyler quickly changes his reactions and does not seem to have any principle. Consequently, his final comeback feels mechanical.

The constantly shaking camera is another exhausted style throughout the film, a much-used method to create the impression of chaos and unease. However, when the filmmaker constantly moves camera and avoids staying on the action and performers, he keeps us distant from every action and every character. We don’t get to know, digest, or invest in what is going on, who is doing what, and who is who.

Additionally, some characters feel very extra. For example, what’s the function of the middle-aged guy other than rarely being the wiser person in the room or showing that he can be uncomfortable with racist jokes and, at the same time, go on a rant with a transphobic joke? Or how much do we really get to know about Nico, the Argentinian guy?

Finally, the use of anamorphic lens has caused a lot of distortions on the sides of the frames and added many lens flares that have no function in the film. I think this issue is emblematic of almost all the problems in this film: that there are characters, scenes, actions, stylistic choices that can be omitted from the film and nothing would change; that there are many elements in the film without any function. This is actually one of the big issues with many American independent films: a central idea that is repeated on and on with the addition of a lot of functionless elements using the excuse of “portraying the real life as it is.”


About Author

Hamidreza Nassiri

Hamidreza Nassiri is a PhD candidate in Film Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His dissertation examines the influence of digital technologies in media industries on democracy and social justice on local and global levels, with a focus on Iranian cinema. He also founded and directed the Wisconsin Iranian Film Festival for two years, was the programming director of the first Midwest Video Poetry Festival, and the executive director and jury member at the 3rd Globe International Silent Film Festival. Hamidreza is a filmmaker. His last short film, IMMORTAL (2018) became finalist and semi-finalist in several film festivals. He has taught film production and film studies for years, in college and in community. In 2019, after receiving the Humanities Exchange (HEX) Award, he ran free filmmaking workshops for underrepresented communities in Madison, Wisconsin. In 2021, he ran a free digital storytelling workshop for working class people of color in Madison. He was also the Educational Development Fellow at the Arts + Literature Laboratory, a non-profit dedicated to democratizing art and art education in Dane County, from 2019 to 2020.

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