Independent Film Festival Boston 2015 – Day 3: ‘The Overnight’ And ‘The Tribe’

the tribe

Things took a turn for the disturbing and uncomfortably hilarious last night at the 13th Annual Independent Film Festival Boston.

UTG got to check out Patrick Brice’s sex comedy, The Overnight, and Miroslav Slaboshpitsky’s Ukranian experimental film, The Tribe. Although we are sad that we had to miss the Elliot Smith doc, Heaven Adores You, the benefit of this fest is that missing films doesn’t matter with such a wide variety of great genre cinema to choose from. Audience reaction seemed to be the theme of last night; The Overnight with laughs, The Tribe with gasps and muffled instances of “oh my god.”

What provoked those reactions? Let’s talk about last night’s viewings.

The Overnight


Marital bliss is one of the most popular things to get kyboshed in cinema today to comedic chagrin. It usually breaks apart as characters let loose all of their pent-up anger and insecurities. With a deviously hilarious performance by Jason Schwartzman, the humor that can be found in the taking down of that bliss runs like one 80-minute long joke. And you know what, the joke worked (for the most part, at least).

Alex (Adam Scott), Emily (Taylor Schilling), and their son, RJ (R.J. Hermes), are new to Los Angeles. Alex is the stay at home dad and Emily is the busybody worried about Alex meeting new friends. One day in a park where RJ plays, he becomes friendly with Max (Max Moritt). His father Kurt (Jason Schwartzman) then introduces himself to Alex and Emily, inviting them over to his home for a pseudo-welcoming party. After meeting Kurt’s wife, Charlotte (Judith Godreche), things take a slow decline for the sexually weird. After all, Kurt did propose an adult “playdate” in the beginning of the film.

One of The Overnight’s biggest strengths lies in its running time. At a lean 80 minutes, it never overstays its welcome. The plot of the whole film takes place over one night and the main joke rarely gets old. Sex comedies come out every couple of months, it seems like. Brice isn’t reinventing the wheel here. The most admirable part of the film is that it comes in to tell a simple story and does exactly that. It rarely goes off into tangents where it would be difficult to reel everything back into the main narrative.

If anything, the plot is an extremely calculated series of plot revelations that build up to a big punchline. And when it hits, you will have a hard time not cracking up immensely. Kurt and Charlotte are like sexual boundary assassins that specialize in making you feel attracted to whatever they please. They encourage Alex’s inferiority complex to come to the surface until he explodes, setting him in a trance with the other couple. They encourage Emily’s problems with intimacy to bubble to the surface until she can’t take it anymore. In turn, both couples smoke pot and drink way too much to stay cohesive. With Schwartzman’s inspired performance, The Overnight is able to sell a slew of dick and butt jokes.

That’s not to glaze over how uneven it can be, though. Drama is The Overnight’s worst enemy. Schilling does a fantastic job at moving the story along even when it comes to a dramatic halt. Her performance is very much in her eyes and face, not always relying on dialogue to keep things going. Drama is still the film’s worst enemy, though. In the few spots where the raucous comedy slows down, the narrative falters. That’s minimal compared to the swath of jokes that retread but still stay fresh. The Overnight is a funny little slice of life that is more than worthy of your time.


The Tribe


After watching The Tribe, words escaped me. Not because I couldn’t formulate my thoughts on it as a whole, but because the film reduces its viewers to such primal rage and fear. For context, Miroslav Slaboshpitsky’s newest takes place at a boarding school for the deaf. The only language used there is sign language. And that’s how the film is shown: without subtitles, without any sort of translation. The viewer is relied on to decipher body language for the whole film. Unless you know Ukrainian sign language, don’t try to decipher any of the hand movements.

The Tribe spins a tale about a new student at this boarding school. As soon as he arrives, he must prove himself to the schoolyard gang. After proving his worth, the gang puts him in charge of prostituting out two female students to drivers at truck stops. This sets him on a dangerous path as he starts protecting one of girls being sold, breaking all of the unwritten rules set forth by the school’s “tribe.” Also, yeah, the teachers are in on the prostitution business, too.

No names are given for any character. It is all reliant on how well you remember faces. The main character enters the story looking like a dopey, but brutish person that will have no problem proving his worth. As the story progresses, a part of you starts to feel for him and the girl he has taken a liking to. Looking back though, you will be extremely rewarded if you believe that the main character is driven by primal instinct. The need for sex and violence is heightened above everything here.

All of the students work on the same basic level of the need to survive that everything becomes a feat of physical strength, even for the viewer. Every piece of violence is laid bare for all to see in a series of long takes that don’t cut when you are feeling the most uncomfortable and emotionally assaulted. This isn’t the kind of movie where it establishes a hero and makes you believe in his journey. Nope. This is an unfaltering look at studying the human brain’s capacity to survive at all costs. The girls being sold for cheap are seemingly content with the terrible things they are being pushed through. Is this a matter of learning to embrace your situation or is it a study about how much pain can be filed away in favor of numbing it?

I still don’t know the answer to these questions, but I wish some of that numbing came my way during the 132-minute runtime. The Tribe is too many descriptive adjectives to list out here. Cover your mouth in silent horror. That should be one of the few visceral reactions to this film.


Sam Cohen

Sam Cohen is that guy you can't have a conversation with without bringing up Michael Mann. He is also incapable of separating himself from his teenage angst (looking at you, Yellowcard). Read on as he tries to formulate words about movies!
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