Tone-Deaf - Grimmfest Review

★★★★

Directed by: #RichardBatesJr.

Written by: #RichardBatesJr.

Starring: #RobertPatrick, #AmandaCrew, #KimDelaney

Grimmfest Film Review by: Darren Tilby



Tone-Deaf plays on those generational tropes we’re all well accustomed to being thrown around these days. Whether it’s the older generation insisting “I never had anything handed to me!”, “I had to work for everything I have!”. Or the younger generations inability to live without their phones for more than a few hours. Tone-Deaf ridicules and pulls it all apart with considerable finesse.


Much like her latest ‘It’s complicated’ relationship (which has just ended in the most millennial way ever), Olive’s (Amanda Crew) life is full of complexities. But when she loses her job after berating her creepy boss (also in the most millennial way ever), she decides to take a step back and retire to the country for the weekend. Renting the beautiful family home of widower Harvey (a delightfully unhinged performance from Robert Patrick), Olive seems to have found the perfect retreat. Unfortunately, Harvey is in the middle of a psychotic breakdown. And he isn’t too keen on people of the younger generation, who he sees as weak and entitled. But, in the end, are we really so different?


Are we so different? That’s the question posed by Richard Bates Jr. In consideration of this, Bates employs the use of a range of cinematic techniques. There are plenty of “subtle” moments of dialogue—“Fucking millennials!”. And shared traits between the two lead characters – Olive’s physical weakness and Harvey’s mental weakness – suggest we’re not so different after all. This mirroring plays a considerable part in the film, and Bates uses it admirably. Particularly in the depiction of Olive’s best friend Lenore (Hayley Marie Norman) and mother Crystal’s (Kim Delaney) sex life. Both...enjoy themselves very much; Lenore with a variety of one night stands – which are usually disappointing and involve drugs – and Crystal with her toyboys and poolside lifestyle. There are small differences here and there, but generally, they are very much the same. It’s all designed to make us question our differences, and, in my opinion, Bates pulls this off really well.


Of course, none of this would be possible if not for the sublime acting from its cast and their ability to deliver on both Bates’ superbly written dialogue and screenplay. There’s an immense joy to be had in both Robert Patrick and Amanda Crew’s performances and the situations their characters find themselves in. Some are comically bemusing. Olive being interrupted by Harvey’s son, David (Ronnie Gene Blevins), walking into her bedroom is a wonderfully awkward (and relateable) interaction. Then there are incredibly visceral and sudden displays of violence which, thanks to marvellous special effects, pack quite the gut punch. Interspersed throughout all of that are moments of deep melancholia—the film is about a lonely widower losing his grip on sanity through grief after all. These individual moments of comedy, and of violence, and sadness are all handled really well. But, while it does make for some compelling tonal shifts—again, mirroring Harvey’s declining mental health and extreme mood swings. Because of this, however, it can feel a little disjointed at times.


So...are we so different? Well, yes, we are...and no, we’re not. There may be some seemingly chasmic differences between our generations (millennials and baby boomers). Still, actually, these are just cracks on the surface. Bates, through excellent writing and direction, shows us that our similarities are considerably more deep-rooted than anything that divides us. Capturing and critiquing the atmosphere of today’s cultural and political climate. Yes, the millennial generation has grown up with certain privileges the baby boomers didn’t have. Internet shopping, mobile phones, and access to better education being chiefly among them. But there’s more competition, more stress, and more need to excel now than ever before. Indeed, we all have our strengths, and we all have our weaknesses, and it’s great to see this put to film in such a clear and concise manner.