Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"Alexander Alexandrov's grimy cinematography shows us the dirt and the grit we have come to associate with working class Americans going off the rails, and applies it to well cared for suburban homes and cityscapes usually pictured as glamorous." | Photo: Alexander Alexandrov

There's a fairly well known website out there called Does The Dog Die? which seeks to give sensitive audience members peace of mind or help them prepare before they start watching a film. In this case it won't be able to give you a clear answer. This isn't the darkly playful ambiguity of American Psycho. The dog in the film is certainly in peril. Our uncertainty about what happens, which we might share with the central character, fulfils a different function. As in Schroedinger's famous proposition, the fate of the animal is a distraction from the real issue, the state of the person who imperilled it in the first place.

Whether Tilt is just about one person or a whole society is another open question. What happens to Joseph (Joseph Cross) over the course of the film seems to have its roots in undiagnosed metal illness, but it could just as well be symptomatic of a deeper American malaise - or both. Certainly, Joseph is obsessed with politics and the notion of social decay. He also has another obsession, however - a name which he keeps typing into search engines despite initially getting no results - which hints at something terrible he may have done in the past. Is social change and the rise of Donald Trump having a deep effect on his psyche, or is he using such things as scapegoats to carry some of the burden of his existing guilt?

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The ironic thing about Joseph is that he doesn't see himself as one of those Americans, prone to populist influences. He's a decent, liberal-minded guy. He's creative, artistic - and he can prove it, because a few years ago he released a documentary that made $15,000. He's working hard on the next one, or so he insists - it's not always clear who he's trying to convince. He believes it could change the way that America understands itself.

Meanwhile, wife Joanne (Alexia Rasmussen) is paying the rent. But Joanne is pregnant and won't be able to manage as sole breadwinner for much longer. Something's got to give. As she strives to persuade Joseph to be more practical, even going so far as to set up a job opportunity for him, he begins to panic. And one night, when he's behind the wheel of his car, he sees a dog in the middle of the road.

From Joanne's perspective, it all comes out of nowhere. She married a nice guy who always treated her with respect and consideration. Yet still, throughout the film, the viewer is given the sense that she's in danger. Showing at this year's Fantasia film festival, it might be interpreted as fantasy or as straight out horror.

Director Kasra Farahani never lets the tension slacken for an instant. It's a necessary part of immersing us in Joseph's world, but it does make the film tiring to watch, which is sometimes to its detriment. Cross approaches his performance in the same way and we only really glimpse the old Joseph through Joanne's eyes. This undermines the film's effectiveness - it would make more of an impression if we saw the change take place instead of just hearing it. Although it may be the case that Joseph has yet to seriously transgress when we meet him, it's already easy to believe that it could happen at any time.

Alexander Alexandrov's grimy cinematography shows us the dirt and the grit we have come to associate with working-class Americans going off the rails, and applies it to well cared for suburban homes and cityscapes usually pictured as glamorous. Though the film falls short of its ambitions, it's interesting in its attempt to show that frustration and destructive expressions thereof can spill over into any part of society.

Reviewed on: 26 Jul 2017
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A documentary filmmaker whose wife is pregnant starts to lose his grip.

Director: Kasra Farahani

Writer: Kasra Farahani, Jason O'Leary

Starring: Joseph Cross, C.S. Lee, Kelvin Yu, Alexia Rasmussen, Jessy Hodges, Junes Zahdi, Billy Khoury, Michael Zakhar, Micheal Zakhar, Kyle Koromaldi

Year: 2017

Runtime: 99 minutes

Country: US

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