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Slamdance: ‘Tapeworm’ Review: Cringey, depressing, and impossible to look away from

‘Tapeworm’ takes risks that may alienate people.

The Sundance Film Festival is around the corner. Taking place during the same time is Slamdance. Also held in Park City, Utah, the fest focuses on emerging artists and low budget independent films. Slamdance alumni include director Christopher Nolan and the Russo Brothers of Marvel Cinematic Universe fame. Tapeworm proves this year’s festival promises to be as raw and innovative as any before.

Tapeworm is a comedy-drama that takes place in Winnipeg, Canada. The movie follows various people trying to get through life. The methodical story is about coping and attempted acceptance. It is a familiar premise, but this Canadian film takes risks that may alienate people. The question becomes, are they worth it or is it a case of trying too hard?

The film’s tempo is perfect for the stories being told, but may also work against it. Tapeworm is a series of character studies. To that end, it moves at a very patient pace. The plot gives the audience time to learn about its cast. Unfortunately, this may also turn potential viewers away. There are no loud moments or obvious turning points. This is a movie that wants its characters and stories to be the focus.

Those who do give up on Tapeworm are missing out. It’s patient storytelling allows the audience to understand the movie’s characters. At times, it is an almost too intimate look, but the result is impossible to turn away from. It may be a stretch to say the audience will care about the characters, but they will definitely be interested. The realistic approach keeps anyone watching engaged.

Focusing on a sick man, a soccer fan, a would be comedian, and a seemingly happy couple, the movie takes an almost simplistic approach to its storytelling. It simply gives a peek into the lives of its characters. This is incredibly effective. The couple are engaging while there is genuine mystery surrounding the person with the tapeworm. Viewers may not be able to instantly relate, but they will be interested.

The depressed comedian is the highlight of Tapeworm. Much like Michael Scott, audiences will want to hear what she says next while at the same time hoping she will stop talking. These scenes are great and filled with laugh out loud moments that may not exactly be comedy, but are undeniably funny. The payoff to her story will end up being one of the funniest moments of the year.

Co directed by Fabian Velasco and Milos Mitrovic, the film also has a great look and atmosphere. The best movies are able to convey emotion by what is seen as well as what is heard. Tapeworm does this throughout its entirety. There is a sadness and apathy that fills the locations as much as it does the people. The occasional shot showing off the beauty of Winnipeg offsets the melancholy nature of the movie. It is great camerawork and a wonderful example of the location mirroring the characters.

The combination of the characters and setting make Tapeworm one of the most natural films of recent years. It takes a documentary like look at the players involved in its tale. It is refreshing to see a story about regular people overcoming ordinary problems. It may not be a one to one comparison for every audience member, but much of the story will feel familiar.

Tapeworm can be a difficult watch at times. It closely examines the lives of people viewers would rather not know about. The comedy is more cringe than it is humorous. It seems to actively shut out any chance for happiness. But these same qualities are what make the movie so good. Yes, it is hard to watch, but it is also worth every minute.

Is it good?
A methodical and intimate look at ordinary people dealing with regular problems. Funny and pitiful at the same time.
Alex Ateah is hilarious as a depressed comic
Excellent atmosphere adds to the top notch storytelling
High cringe factor may turn some off

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