Toronto filmmaker Kazik Radwanski’s intense debut follows Derek (newcomer Derek Bogart, balding), an almost defiantly regular loser who has dreams and desires yet seems intent on viscerally choking them every step of the way. At 34, Derek still lives at home with his parents.
He works odd jobs while toiling on a ridiculous animation film in the basement. He hits the clubs and awkwardly tries to pick up girls who want nothing to do with him. His brain works in mysterious ways. Scene-by-scene more about Derek is revealed – his propensity for lying, his off-kilter attitudes towards life and relationships – and Radwanski (whose last two shorts were in competition at the Berlinale) is too smart to know that a complete picture is impossible in a feature film.
In a way too Derek becomes emblematic of his place – Tower can be seen as a kind of sick anthem to Toronto, home to the world’s former tallest free-standing structure. A film that burrows its way into your mind, Tower has dedication and perseverance to a world view, to observing, up close – sometimes way too close – the animal that is Man.
(Did I mention there are raccoons?) Like Derek himself, Tower is, say, 98 percent unlikeable in pursuant of its goals, and Radwanski’s unflinching dedication – his film is a genuine proposition – makes it one of the year’s most jarring and accomplished debuts.Mark Peranson