By Adam Ray Palmer
I had early access to Travis Mathews’ brand new film Discreet which premiered at the 67th Berlinale last night.
Discreet is Travis Mathews’ third narrative feature film and follows his 2012 movie I Want Your Love and his 2013 collaboration with James Franco on Interior. Leather Bar.
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Discreet follows an unstable drifter, Alex (Jonny Mars) who returns home to rural Texas to confront a mysterious man from his past, plotting revenge while struggling to survive in the surreal and disturbing landscape of modern-day America.
Jonny Mars plays loose cannon Alex, who has a penchant for anonymous sex with closeted men. Alex has very little guidance on how to deal with his disjointed life when his recovering alcoholic mother shares that a monstrous man from his past - and the source of his pain - is still alive. One shining light of advice is a YouTuber named Mandy (Atsuko Okatsuka) who speaks sporadic pearls of wisdom to camera or via narration. Alex seems to really connect with Mandy’s unusual videos – adding to the suspense of Alex’s character.
Alex is a man losing his grip on the world, and he is inches away from spiralling out of control at any minute. There’s a couple of scenes where we see him playing with a baseball bat, losing his cool with fringe characters and we are shown sequences of a body bag floating down the river throughout to add more to the mix to deliberate.
There’s two things that stand out to me in this film. One being Jonny Mars measured performance and the other being the strong use of intimate sex scenes. I say intimate, but you don’t actually see the ‘details’ as it were, but your mind is left with what is going down so to speak… There’s a sequence where Alex kisses an armpit, which is certainly an acquired taste, and another where you hear two men grunting with images of stag’s heads over the top – a straight-forward use of male symbolism.
Jonny owns Discreet greatly, he puts the audience on edge and you don’t know which way he will take us next. The 80-minute runtime is the perfect length for us to delve into Alex’s life and personality, get a feel what is going on, and then leave with the narrative delivered. Travis’ movie will definitely get you thinking, but thankfully, leave you sane with the final five minutes sewing the plot up neatly like a little body bag, say.
Cineroom’s Rating: 3.5 Stars
Discreet’s world premiere took place on 11th February 2017 at Berlinale’67 – certificate TBC