The first image that the audience sees in Bruiser tells the entire tale in itself. It is a straightforward yet powerful opening in which we see three persons from above, all of whom are unknown to us, laying out in a field. The figures are all in the same position. They may have been mistaken for discarded action figures if they hadn’t risen up to take in the surroundings, during which time they didn’t utter a single word and went completely unnoticed by anyone around them.
When the rest of the movie has played out in front of us and brought us full circle to this point, we will finally have a complete understanding of the specific elements that lie at the heart of this brief opening scenario. Nonetheless, this is one of the aspects that contribute to the lyrical nature of Miles Warren’s first feature film, which is an expansion of the short film of the same name that he directed.
The film “Bruiser,” which had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, is about the difficulties of coming of age in a world in which the adults who are supposed to be leading you through life are almost as prone as you are to make mistakes and get hurt in the real world. At the same time as it brings to light something awful, such as the possibility that resentment and dread may be passed down from generation to generation, it also provides opportunities for moments of beauty. It is a piece of literature that completely submerges us in the ever-present complexities of what it means to be a young man.
This is viewed mostly through the eyes of Darious (Jalyn Hall), a reticent young man 14 years old who is only attempting to find his place in the world. During his time off from boarding school, this primarily entails seeking to connect with friends, engaging in video calls with a crush from a school he is now away from, making fruitless requests to his father Malcolm (Shamier Anderson) to purchase him a new bike that is more proportionate to his size, and learning to drive under the watchful eye of his mother Monica (Shinelle Azoroh). In spite of this, he finds it difficult to talk about how he is feeling when all of this is going on around him.
Although it may appear that Darious is having standard teenage problems, such as when he bristles at the lighthearted interest his mother has in the girl he has a crush on, there is a developing sense that Darious is feeling lonely and alone. When he gets into a brief but brutal fight with another local kid who is bigger than he is, Warren begins by shooting from a distance before pulling us in closer and closer, so that we feel every blow even though we don’t always fully see them making contact.
He then wanders off by himself after the fight is over. It is there that Darious meets the boat-dwelling Porter, played by Trevante Rhodes, who, at a time when Darious is at his lowest, provides him with support and wisdom. Their meeting turns out to be something far more significant than a random encounter, and as a result, the two start to build a connection that is accompanied by a more intricate past.
It is somewhat less necessary to get into specifics about what this not-completely unexpected surprise turns out to be than it is to discuss the manner in which it is all presented. It is the delicate way in which key moments play out that ensures it manages to move beyond some residual bluntness.
More than just the narrow aspect ratio that works perfectly in tandem with the rich visuals that were shot by cinematographer Justin Derry and an evocative score that was composed by Robert Ouyang Rusli, this is what ensures that it manages to move beyond some bluntness. Where the film really shines is in the sequences where we get to focus only on Darious and Porter’s interaction when they are alone themselves.
It produces a transient naturalism that we know will not endure forever, and this is true whether we are talking about the most effective approach to fighting or having a joyful time at a fair filled with brilliantly colored attractions. These passages have a subtle sense of unease because Rhodes imbues the character with genuine charisma and wit, which serves to conceal the underlying evil that he carries with him.
We acquire this information through snippets of his history that show that he either discloses himself out of a desire to connect with Darious or out of desperation that he not be excluded at the mercy of being characterized by other people. The plot of the movie then focuses on how he is not just different from Malcolm but also more comparable to him than either of them would ever like to accept.
When pressure comes to shove and both guys are trying to squeeze the other out of the way, it doesn’t matter if they’ve followed different roads in their lives; it doesn’t matter at all. This is not toughness; rather, it is just their own flaws posing as toughness. Strength is not something that they possess. Darious, who is only trying to find someone to help him digest the obstacles that life throws at him, finds himself in the thick of all of this only to learn that the two masculine figures in his life don’t have many of the answers either.
Darious gets caught in the middle of all of this. Just as he will try to forget about everything for a while as he goes with Porter on a Ferris wheel — the classic location of many movies before it — this soon carries with it a bittersweet somberness that sneaks up on you. Just as he will try to forget about everything for a while as he goes with Porter on a Ferris wheel, the classic location of many movies before it.
It doesn’t matter how many slivers of life may be discovered in the wonderful memories that Darious is forming; they will always be ones that are precarious. When he awkwardly starts to tell Porter that he cares about him and wants to be there for him, he complicates what was previously a straightforward dialogue between the two of them.
The trouble is, it seems as though he wants Darious to be there for him more than he needs Darious to be there for himself at this point. In spite of this, the setting is a peaceful one that provides a glimpse of what may be. Darious is the one who has to pick up the pieces after Malcolm interrupts the moment and ruins it. Malcolm’s arrival shatters the moment.
The load that he then attempts to carry, which is actually illustrated at one point, is simply too great for him to bear. The fact that the movie never allows itself to be brought down by such weight, but instead manages to stay light on its feet and become elegant just when we least expect it, is what makes the movie successful.
When everything comes to a grinding halt in the midst of the chaos of a brawl, Warren demonstrates a great deal of patience in letting these moments linger. This is true whether he is watching the world pass quickly by as the characters ride motorcycles or when he is observing the world speeding by as the characters go on motorcycle rides. There is a glimmer of optimism for the future when everything is brought full circle to the moment we witnessed at the beginning, which can now be viewed from a more realistic viewpoint that is built upon the insight gained by having to mature quickly.
It is a reincorporation that also reimagines what is possible for young Darious, and one gets the idea that it does the same for all of us. Bruiser is a wonderfully shot movie that grapples with parenthood, masculinity, and growing up. It emerges as a perfectly broken cinematic treasure despite the fact that it does not present any simple conclusions to any of the issues that it raises.
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