November 30, 2019 Tilt (Movie Review)
A bleak tale inspired by the endless pursuit of the American Dream, and originally released in the USA in 2018, Psychological Thriller Tilt arrived to download across all major digital platforms in the UK on November 25th, 2019, thanks to The Movie Partnership.
In Los Angeles, two Average Joes—documentary filmmaker Joe (Joseph Cross: Milk 2008, Lincoln 2012) and his nurse/student wife Joanne (Alexia Rasmussen: Listen to Your Heart 2010, Our Idiot Brother 2011)—are preparing for the arrival of their first child. Unemployed and buried deep into his latest passion project, Joe begins to feel the weight of the impending birth on his shoulders and his behavior grows increasingly erratic. Alas, the further he spirals down the rabbit hole of anxiety, the harder it will be for him to avoid a violent psychotic break.
Clocking in at 96 minutes, Tilt was directed by Kasra Farahani (Noon short 2013, The Good Neighbor 2016) and was written by Farahani with Jason O’Leary. The film also features the acting talents of Jessy Hodges (Sundowners short 2019, Barry series), Kelvin Yu (Grandma’s Boy 2006, Cloverfield 2008), Christian Calloway (Twin Peaks series, The House with a Clocks in Its Walls 2018), C.S. Lee (Dexter series, Chicago Med series), Jade Sealey (Return to Zero 2014, No Light and No Land Anywhere 2016), Brian Leng (Two Wongs Don’t Make a White short 2014, Red Blood Yellow Skin short 2015), Ron Marasco (The 40-Year-Old Virgin 2005, Bones series), and more.
A Psychological Thriller steeped in socio-political commentary and set amidst the backdrop of Trump’s “great” America, Tilt made its debut at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival as well as the 2017 Fantasia Film Festival. To be fair, potential film-goers should immediately understand that this is a slow burn production that chooses visual subtleties and inspiring topical debate over action and fast-moving plot. If you necessitate the latter, this is not going to be the film for you.
But that will be your loss, because it is a great film! For anyone who has chased a dream or doubted their choices in life, Tilt presents the unraveling of Joe, an average, mild-mannered filmmaker who is passionate about his craft and his values. He has, in effect, done everything “right” in life, and yet he has barely tasted that boldly promised “American dream.” Struggling to pair his desperate desire for freedom with the urgent need to “settle down” and get a job that will provide for his family’s future, he watches as his pregnant wife works while attending school and studying for her MCATs, and still manages to keep a glowing smile on her face.
Portraying the subtle nuances of a man who is the quiet neighbor, the friend who only raises their voice when truly impassioned on a topic, Cross delivers a stellar performance. Unsuspecting and completely average in all senses, his Joe is representative of so many individuals in our society who are falling apart in silence.
However, Tilt doesn’t just delve into those that are suffering with mental health issues, and so it provides the perfect foil to Joe’s “fall apart under the stress” approach to life: Joanne. The overachiever who is pregnant and yet still working a demanding job as a nurse, all while studying for her MCATs and preparing to enter medical school, Joanne is strong. Though she has moments of self-doubt and confides in a friend, her ability to tackle a million different things in life and keep smiling is the perfect reminder that not every Average Joe is an anxious Joseph—some are wonderfully motivated Joannes.
The seemingly implausible ability to maintain freedom (artistic and otherwise) while guaranteeing security is what mounts Joe’s anxiety, causing him to dip into a depression that begins to alter his behavior, and ultimately leads to a psychotic break. This element of the exceptional screenplay is mirrored clearly in Joe’s current documentary, “Golden Age,” a look at the rise of the American Dream amid America’s so-called Golden Age.
So, is Tilt all about chasing a legacy that might not exist? Well, no. Tilt culls together many of the topical debates of vital importance right now—poverty, mental health, and our growing social apathy being three specific issues—and crafts a film that touches on these conversations and urges viewers toward cultural disruption. As a society, we shouldn’t turn our heads when we see someone lying on the street in the cold or ignore the obvious signs of someone’s devolving mental health, and we absolutely must accept that all lives matter. No matter the party line, these are the issues that are facing our nation at the moment and many of them stem from chasing amorphous, unachievable goals.
Simply put, Tilt is a Psychological Thriller chock-full of socio-political commentary that is fully intended to open debate and discussion. Thanks to a phenomenal screenplay and two truly gifted lead actors, the film’s simplicity and minimalism speak louder than any blockbuster production ever could on everything from mental health to the true religion of consumerism—and the intertwining of the two.
A bleak tale, but one that is careful to never sensationalize its violence, Tilt is timely, topical and subversive—much like the film within the film. For this, Cryptic Rock give Tilt 5 of 5 stars.