In his début feature attempt, Deniz Michael has put himself at considerable risk. He does nearly everything: writing, producing, starring, shooting (with the able assistance of Kevin Straceski), composing and editing. Leaving just a covey of voices to provide relief and impetus to the one-man descent into darkness, the film’s kudos and complaints can only be placed on his shoulders. Fortunately, Michael is strong enough to absorb the glory and the gaffe and it’s hoped that his next project is already in development.
The best thing going for Solitary Fracture is its
tone. The black-and-white canvas is at one with the split personality that fuels
the drama; the often single-line music track adds to the tortured soul’s sense
of isolation as do the many low-pitched pedals that seem impossible to lift, just as many of life’s situations force so many to collapse under their perceived weight. The challenge, then, is to enhance and sustain the ever-increasing sense of doom and personal destruction so that the heady
madness—like a transition in a Schumann symphony—seems as inevitable as it is
Establishing the back-story of Mike Peters, his art-devoid
apartment, his dead-end sales job where he knowingly sells certain-to-fall
securities to the unsuspecting public and his near-constant rejection—the curse
of any telemarketer—sets the stage for a series of negative circumstances that
drag him out of his society-shaped self and deeper and deeper into the evil
twins of debility and despair, while acknowledging the sham that virtually every aspect of
his existence produces.
Soon the job is gone, his résumé’s dismissed or, literally,
put on hold; then family squabbles, “stop comparing me to [brother] Ryan!,” can
only be endured through the company of “Sam,” a product of the imagination and
past experiences who appears with growing frequency to torment his alter ego as
he blots out the world (even, at one point, denying his existence) by lowering
the blinds in a one-star motel and gulping down vodka like discovering water in
Riveting at times, but, after each successive plunge into
the abyss, Michael brings his character too far back to reality. He doesn’t
look as wretched as the rampant binges that the dry or wet heaves are known to
cause. His anger scenes are convincing but a nickel short of the revulsion that
boozy tirades and their head-breaking hangovers fuel. There’s a marvellous
moment when he tries shaving his head using hand soap for cream and a flimsy bic
razor, but he merely gives up rather than attempting to yank out his locks or
find a knife to finish the job.
His a-sexuality is also a puzzle. Surely one so confined in his own skin might take comfort in pleasuring himself or longing for another. With so many taunts from his mothering landlady to the dredged up memories of those who realize he didn’t fit into their molds, a release beyond
yelling back could, ironically, both add to his growing sense of worthlessness
and mutual identity with anyone who has ever found comfort in doing themselves.
Solitary Fracture will resonate with many millions who have come to the realization that their time and role on the planet serves other interests than their own. A more unstoppable fall into personal purgatory would have heightened the compelling theme of this engrossing film, and,
perhaps, steel the resolve of those facing similar trials to rise above them
rather than fade to black. JWR