The Australian film 2:37 is sure to set tongues wagging this year at TIFF. But the story of how the movie got made will probably eclipse the film itself.
The impressive feature debut comes from 20-year-old Murali K Thalluri who produced, directed and wrote the film after a close friend committed suicide and left him a video confession. “Watching someone scream, cry, shout and beg as they were preparing themselves to carry through with the act of taking their own life is something that haunts me to this day,” Thalluri has written. Thalluri slipped into his own depression and eventually tried to overdose on medication. But the failed attempt left him with a renewed passion and sent him on an emboldened quest to make this film.
The movie recounts a mysterious suicide that happens at 2:37pm, then goes back in time to show six characters, any of whom might take their own life. Supplemented with fake documentary interviews, each teenager reveals their own set of particular problems and the film culminates with one of the most gruesome death scenes I have ever watched.
The actors give very strong performances considering most of them are unknown. Even though each actor typifies a kind of character (the Jock, the Popular Girl, the Gay Guy and so on), they each come off as very genuine.
Likewise, the cinematography, writing and sound design are nothing short of impressive considering this was all helmed by a 20-year old.
But it is the twist ending that, while a tad gimmicky, offers an appropriate and thought-provoking punctuation on the reality of suicide.
The question of who commits suicide comes to overshadow the characters themselves; once answered, the resolutions of the other characters’ stories feels predictable and unimaginative.
Comparisons to Gus Van Sant’s Elephant are unavoidable: a group of high-school kids over one afternoon, a moving camera, repeated scenes from different angles and an eerie sound design. 2:37 seems overly influenced by the former and lacks its subtlety and haunting quality.
But the passion with which 2:37 was made will surely resonate with audiences.
What amazes is the tenacity and money this kid had to make the movie. Apparently he spent much time fundraising, learning about tax loopholes and teaching himself how to edit in order to get the project made. He even contacted Oscar-nominated sound designer Leslie Shatz (The Mummy, Bram Stroker’s Dracula) and asked him to work on the film. Shatz agreed.