Choking Man

Choking Man


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Meet Jorge. He's the sort of man you might meet every day, but it's unlikely you'd remember him. Huddled up inside his jacket, he avoids making eye contact, and he virtually never speaks. He has a job in a diner, washing dishes. He rides on the subway. He watches television. This is the whole of his life, and it seems sufficient, if not exactly satisfactory, until pretty young waitress Amy takes a shine to him and offers, at long last, the human contact he has both yearned for and feared. It becomes clear that soon Jorge will be forced to change - but will that be for better, or for worse? Just what will happen when his long-suppressed passions find their way to the surface?

Though it meanders through the early part of its tale like a gentle, grimy Kim Ki-duk film, its odd characters seeming essentially harmless, Choking Man has a darker side. Jorge shares his one room apartment with a roommate who may or may not be real, yet who seems to wield enormous influence over him. When he is bullied at work, the roommate is quick to suggest resorting to violence. Jorge keeps the newspaper Amy gives him by the side of his bed. He watches her through cracks in doors. It's not exactly a healthy approach to romance but then, how could it be? The gulf between his world and hers is enormous.

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Choking Man is the first major feature film by Steve Barron, a man who made a big impression back in the Eighties with the video he made for A-Ha's Take On Me, in which characters crossed between real and animated worlds. That video is recalled here when Jorge dreams of a rabbit, adding to the film's complex overtones of magical realism, whilst, on a more playful note, Jorge's well-intentioned tormentor, Jerry, dances round the kitchen singing Eighties hits.

Though parts of the film are slow, there's some great character work from the actors, and an astute balance between Jorge's awakening romantic feelings and the growing sense of threat. Suffice to say that when the ending comes, it's something altogether unexpected. Some may consider it an anti-climax, but it's a deliberate one, hinting at something altogether more valuable than the standard pay-offs we have come to expect from cinema.

This is far from easy going, yet it's surprisingly gripping, at least in the early stages, and it maintains a certain charm throughout. You certainly won't see many other films like it.

Reviewed on: 13 Nov 2008
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A young man who is desperately shy faces moral and emotional turmoil after falling for a waitress at the diner where he works.
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Director: Steve Barron

Writer: Steve Barron

Starring: Octavio Gómez, Eugenia Yuan, Aaron Paul, Mandy Patinkin, Kate Buddeke

Year: 2006

Runtime: 85 minutes

Country: US


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