The old chestnut of a single story told from multiple perspectives is what makes up the fabric of Todd Verow’s latest film, Tumbledown; an erotic thriller that throws three messed up protagonists into a situation rife with issues of belonging and dominance, morality and immorality, guilt and innocence. How messed up these protagonists are depends entirely upon which version of events you choose to subscribe to. This is a film with lofty intent, so, what’s the story?
Jay (played by Director Todd Verow) approaches hunky bartender Nick (Brad Hallowell) and invites him to spend the weekend with him and his partner Mike (Brett Faulkner) in their country cabin. Soon, copious amounts of sex, drugs and alcohol lead to a dark obsession and even darker complications. This is the place where love triangles go apocalyptic. Is there a rape, or isn’t there? Is there a murder or isn’t there? Is there a point, or isn’t there?
Prepare yourself for some slightly scathing comments about Tumbledown, but stick with me, because I will say some nicer things later.
Frankly speaking, Tumbledown has very little to recommend in terms of its execution. For a start the acting is about as wooden as it gets, each member of the cast seems highly uncomfortable having to emote on camera (although, by comparison, they seem far more at ease meeting the demands of the sex scenes); my one caveat here is that Faulkner’s performance is more nuanced than the rest of the cast.
The cinematography is highly unrefined, with awkward framing that negates any possibility of becoming engaged with the action, and many shots that are either seem over exposed or out of focus for no apparent reason, giving the impression that this is the result of amateurish camerawork rather than artistic imperative.
Bizarre structural choices are made throughout such as the wordy and indulgent ‘Based on a true story’ caption appearing a third of the way in to the film. These choices may be considered brave and progressive had they appeared in a more polished final product.
The script is flat and unengaging seemingly avoids any attempt at character development, although, granted, the notion of character is intentionally highly subjective depending on which version of events is being told, and again my caveat is that Faulkner plays a character with more dimension.
Now, on the other hand (here comes the praise), the intent behind Tumbledown is something of significance and worthy of being explored. Verow must be congratulated on honing in on the issue of the spread of HIV, whether it be consciously done, or through deception. This is something that does have relevance within contemporary society, and of course Verow’s intention to explore the makeup of the dynamics that may lead to spread of HIV in psychological terms is something for which he should be applauded. This concept alone carries with it a plethora of potential avenues which, with the right script, could be profoundly explosive in cinematic terms. HIV aside, the interpersonal dynamics Verow approaches (but never fully realises) are of interest, and had a more insightful attempt been made to delve in to these further the end result of Tumbledown would be very different indeed.
Fundamentally I like what Verow sets out to achieve; it’s brave, it’s honest, and it’s potentially powerful. The great pity is that the final result barely scratches the surface of this potential goldmine of possibility, and indefensibly packages it in a shell that is wholly unappealing and, well, unprofessional that I would lay money on this film eventually languishing somewhere outside the popular consciousness for all time.
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Tumbledown is available to buy here