Movie Review - The Strange Ones
Radcliff and Wolkstein's short film was part of Boys on Film 7 - Bad Romance. Peccadillo Pictures is a British film distributor for LGBT cinema in the UK and abroad, which was founded in 2000. In 2009, Peccadillo Pictures began a DVD series or DVD anthology called Boys on Film, which is a compilation of short films. Each one is a collection of stories about boys and men dealing with same-sex attraction or same-sex relations. A couple of the shorts have gone and become feature-length. This one would be the third.
Given the opening shots and a news broadcast that's briefly shown, it becomes clear Nick is on the run from a murder and arson. The victim is identified as the boy's father. The question then becomes why was the father killed and what does Nick want with the boy. Otherwise, Nick exudes a gruff, masculine, woodsman-persona that perhaps masks a vulnerability or a love that can't be expressed any other way.
James Freedson-Jackson (Cop Car and Jessica Jones) also stars as Sam, the aforementioned teenage boy who has a very stoic nature to him and who can come across as very mature for his age. He's very sweet and polite in his initial interactions, but that too perhaps is a mask to hide vulnerabilities or emotions that he can't fully unleash. He refers to Nick as his brother, but that description belies how Sam has a very homoerotic gaze at Nick that he perhaps knows he shouldn't act upon but in a quiet moment in the back-seat of Nick's red station wagon, Sam can't help but attempt to touch the rugged hunk.
That tone also makes this film somewhat comparable to the work of Terrence Malick. There is an air here that is very reminiscent of Badlands (1973). That film could be more blatant about its twisted romance. The romance here is no different and not that far off from the romance between the older guy and teen boy in Call Me By Your Name (2017). That 2017 film didn't explore any kind of violence or even any kind of legal consequence, which might make it less responsible than this one because this movie forces an examination of the relationship through legal channels.
The filmmakers could have gone there, but they didn't and the trick of this movie is to question if the sexual relationship between them is even real. Like Lanthimos' film, there is a bit of magical realism here. The magical realism seemed to be a coping mechanism for trauma or both guys' harsh experiences. Unless it's just symbolic for psychopathy, it's not meant to be as accepted as in Lanthimos' film. It's meant to throw things off balance and provide a way out for the audience as it does the characters. It's similar to the ending of Sean Baker's The Florida Project (2017).
It's a form of escape, which I'm not sure benefits the audience or not. Whether or not we need the distance from the crime and from whom these people are shouldn't be the consideration. The film unspools a terrifying character study of two people with desires that stay out of view with goals and motivations that seem only about staying only slightly ahead of whatever justice will be done. Dispensing that justice quickly comes at a shock, but it cuts short whatever taboo could have been delved, though I suppose the filmmakers run the risk of indulging or condoning that taboo, if they decided to show the two boys consummate whatever love they seem to have for one another.
Rated R for some disturbing violent images and brief sexual material.
Running Time; 1 hr. and 22 mins.
Available on DVD and VOD.