Coming in sideways.
Kazik Radwanski (Canada, Discovery)
Early in Kazik Radwanski’s Tower, a dentist tells Derek (Derek Bogart) that he has an impacted tooth, coming in at a dangerous angle. Wisdom teeth, she reminds him, are usually removed before you turn 25, which makes Derek a late bloomer at 34, or “overdue,” as he puts it. That moment, which is simultaneously a wonderfully awkward exchange between two people in an office, a harbinger of things to come, and a figurative nod to his state of arrested development—growing sideways into middle age—is typical of the way Radwanski packs rich detail into a simple story.
Directing his first feature after a number of well-received shorts, Radwanski keeps a tight focus on his protagonist, rarely straying from closeups of Bogart, an original who speaks with a childlike twang that’s part Revenge of the Nerds, part southern Ontarian civility. Derek is a single, and more or less, unemployed, animator who’s spent the past few months grounded in his parents’ basement, completing 14 seconds of a short film about a little green hoarder whose possessions destroy him. (Before hearing the last part, his family dreams a little about the merchandising potential.) Surely his cartoon is a commitment-phobe’s self-portrait in green, but Derek’s not too fond of self-analysis, and to its credit, neither is the film.
Both director and star have a fine ear for how odd people with good manners talk, and Radwanski is just as attuned to Toronto’s constant background drones, among them the soothing TTC voice and the click of an iPhone. As a character study, though, Tower belongs to Derek, a mesmerizing overgrown child with a scar between his eyes like an exclamation mark. Whether he’s weaseling out of a date or, in a great set piece towards the end, facing off against a raccoon that’s been greedily rummaging through the family garbage, he’s hard to look away from.