“Like Todd Solondz‘s Dark Horse,” writes Calum Marsh for Slant, Torontonian director Kazik Radwanski’s Tower “concerns an ostensible loser—in this case 34-year-old Derek (Derek Bogart), rapidly balding and still living in his parents’ basement—whose largely successful endeavors to socialize normally seem at odds, in conventional terms, with his style and apparent manner. Neither withdrawn nor reticent, Derek is perfectly comfortable approaching others; we find him dancing at clubs, attempting to court women, chatting with co-workers. There’s a certain abrasiveness to his personality that’s hard to precisely describe, but the resulting friction that emerges between Derek and those in his company, from friends who appear awkward around him to the girlfriend (Nicole Fairbairn) he eventually courts, gradually becomes the film’s central interest, forming a tenuous narrative tissue that connects these otherwise disparate scenes…. Tower, more than most films of its kind, is deeply observational, and the intimacy it achieves with its protagonist makes it one of the most effective character studies of the past several years.”
Similarly, Nelson Kim at Hammer to Nail: “The handheld camera stays in tight close-up throughout the film, a potentially tiresome device that here succeeds beautifully in granting us an intimacy with Derek that he refuses to everyone around him.”
Dispatching to the Film Society of Lincoln Center from Locarno, Adam Cook readily admitted that he “felt right at home with Radwanski’s portrayal of Canadian complacency, mundanity and vapid politeness…. As we follow this character, who is not without his charms, as he club-hops in search of love, as he works on his modest but considerable computer animation, as he half-heartedly engages in small talk with his family and friends, we become acquainted with his lack of flare, drive, personality and ambition. In other words, Radwanski provides us with a wholly convincing portrait of normality.”
“The closest recent point of comparison for Tower is Ronald Bronstein‘s Frownland, which also followed a perpetually antsy and confused character with relentless detail,” suggests Indiewire‘s Eric Kohn. “But in that case, the movie eventually opened up to chart a path of character development that Tower lacks. Radwanski never extends beyond Derek’s claustrophobic headspace.”
“Part deadpan theater of evasion and confrontation, part acrid retort to mumblecore celebrations of the arrested man-child, it’s a sustained accumulation of anxiety that’s capped by an intriguing anticlimax involving a hissing, scavenging raccoon,” wrote Fernando F. Croce for the Notebook from Toronto.
“Although unassuming, the film’s stubbornness lingers in memory and acquires a touching aspect in its commitment to a lost character that seems a warped distillation of certain Canadian traits,” writes Christoph Huber for Cinema Scope. “That Tower is a rare, uncorrupted from of regional cinema also finds expression in its central animal antagonist (and possible metaphorical double): after all, Toronto is Raccoon City.”
More from James Adams (Globe and Mail), James McNally, and Jay Weissberg (Variety). Tower screens tonight and tomorrow night as part of New York’s New Directors/New Film series running through the end of March.