JWR Articles: Film/DVD - Solitary Fracture (Director/Writer: Deniz Michael) - February 28, 2005

Solitary Fracture

3 3
127 min.

The dichotomy of self

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 creatively astonishing.

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 an oasis.

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

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Reader's Forum
January 9, 2005

I was looking around at some different film critics online and I saw your reviews.  I think your reviews offer very good feedback so I was wondering if you would be interested in reviewing a film I made.  Basically, I am looking to build some reviews online so that I can better judge where this film stands.

Please take a look at the website to see if this is a film you would be interested in reviewing. 

I appreciate your time, - Deniz Michaels (California)