Connor Jessup, who first broke into the scene with his stunning portrayal of an alienated teenager in the school shooting movie Blackbird, takes on a very different role as Oscar in Stephen Dunn’s debut Closet Monster. Set in Dunn’s native Newfoundland and incorporating a dash of autobiographical elements, this coming up/coming out tale incorporates elements both dark and sweet.
The tone of the film shifts throughout, from the gory and the gothic to the surreal an playful. You’re unlikely to get another movie with a Hammy Hamster-like talking rodent (voiced by Isabella Rossellini!) anytime soon, and it’s this dance between the childlike and precocious with the darkly adult that sets the film apart. The central fear at the core of Oscar’s reticence to fully reveal himself is couched both in metaphor and overt storytelling, with rational fears instilled by violence he has witnessed along with the less prosaic aspects of regular adolescent character building.
Despite the flights of fancy the storyline proceeds in fairly archetypal ways, but the film’s ambition (and Jessup’s fine, nuanced turn) makes the film one to take a chance on.
This review was originally published as part of our TIFF 2015 coverage.