adrian’s review published on Letterboxd:
The Criterion Challenge 2021
49. Josh and Benny Safdie's Closet Picks
I was gearing up for an easy watch tonight - perhaps a light gay romance from Daniel Day Lewis. I reckoned the age of this film meant it came out at the start of his career, so he must've been involved in something in a production that was simple and easily digestible.
A couple of minutes into this, I realised that was a mistake. You immediately get thrown into a conversation that's layered with meaning: questions of class, ableism and capitalism stand front and center as you look at the maniacal glint in Omar's eye. And the story spirals out from there, careening across topics of race, homosexuality, misogyny, and the stark desperation of being trapped in forces beyond your control.
This film takes a very clear stance on controversial topics, and presents a formidable maelstrom of content that I honestly found hard to keep up with. It's peculiar in the way it presents itself: not a lot of exposition, not a lot of dialogue, and yet packed with so much character. All of its elements converge to bring not only a strong sense of substance, but a definable style: strong synth music, sweeping camerawork, unforgiving lighting.
I'm sure the disjointedness and the uneven narrative might not be everyone's cup of tea, but it somehow created a sense of unease (if not outright mysticism) in a way that I really identify with. I can't evne make that sentiment any clearer; all I know is that this narrative unfolded in a way that's both comfortingly grounded and yet dizzyingly vertiginous, and captures the overwhelming power struggles of the marginalised in the most intuitive way.