The first thing that comes to mind when I think of the film Seek is awkward. The film seems to me to be unsure of what it wants to be when it grows up. Whether this is a scripting issue or an editing issue I’m not certain, but I am certain this 2014 gay film seems to be trying to be too many things, to too many people and ultimately being not all that much to anyone.
Personally I hate writing negative reviews, particularly for gay films where word of mouth of is so important. I’ve spent the better part of a day trying to figure out to make this a bit more positive and frankly I’ve come up short. Independent Gay Cinema needs fans to allow it continue being viable but the film makers also need to take the time to develop their stories before committing them to film.
Seek tells the story of Evan, a freelance journalist wanting to write for a more important source than the current magazine he works at, writing articles on fetishes (at least I think that’s what he writes about). He accepts a commission to write a feature article for a free give away paper that people read on their way home from work on the train. After a chance encounter at a night club he decides to write about a the world of night club promotion. Given the target audience of the Gazette is middle-aged suburban commuters the editor thinks this is a wonderful idea as middle-aged suburban commuters love reading about the nightlife of the city as a way to remember what they’re missing out on.
Evan then hooks himself remoras style, attaching himself to hot nightclub promoter and King of the Clubs Hunter. Over a period of a few outings Evan finds out all he needs to know about the world of night club promotion and sets off to write his magnum opus about Hunter and his friends.
That’s pretty much it. The piece is written, the editor loves it, Evan loves it, I think Hunter loves it but who the hell knows.
The film does have some things going for it. Mainly it’s two leads. Evan played by Adrian Shepherd-Gawinski is engaging. Given his character seems to be disconnected from the world around him his portrayal of Evan keeps viewers waiting to see what happens next.
Hunter, played by Ryan Fisher is the true star of the film. His portrayal of a very one dimensional character is to his credit, without his skills and ability the character of Hunter would have been nothing at all to write about, and given the twist in the end that would have been a major problem.
I bought the film from Amazon. I recognised the criminally undervalued Matthew Ludwinski on the DVD cover. For those who don’t know him, Ludwinski played the starring role of Adam in one of the best gay films of 2011, Going Down in La La Land. Having loved his performance in that film, seeing him on the cover of Seek convinced me to purchase the film.
Now, in case you are like me and are a fan of Ludwinski let me be very clear. His character is at most an extended cameo. I must admit having watched the film, having him on the cover seems to have been an attempt to cash on in those who recognised him from Going Down in La La Land given the main actors in the film are relatively new and unknown to queer audiences.
Ludwinski’s Jordan provided the first “scratch my head moment” in a film full of them. Moving on from having him on the cover, I couldn’t figure out if the character was a one night stand with our young freelance journalist or if he was a long-term boyfriend and they’d recently broken up. We are introduced to Jordan in a snippet of scene, seeing him asleep beside Evan, and then only in flashbacks and visions of the night the two characters met. If they were a one night stand Evan comes across as a little more than creepy, given he constantly “sees” Jordan in every night club scene.
Most of my problems with this film however come from its lack of clarity. I’m a huge believer in the importance of story. If you don’t know what you’re trying to say, how is the audience expected to engage long enough to go with you to the ending?
There is a sub story in the film that really irked me. Evan is sitting in a bar waiting to meet “a friend (more on that in a bit)” and is approached by an elderly man who offers to buy him a drink. When he declines, the old man starts talking about being new to the area and wanting to make new friends. This then degenerates into an extremely awkward scene with Evan telling him he “has a enough friends,” before agreeing to give the old man his phone number. Evan then proceeds to spend the rest of the film ignoring his phone whenever it rings, rolling eyes to heaven and saying things like “it’s the old man who’s looking for friends.” I’m uncertain what sort of insight that was supposed to give to the character. Whatever the writer’s intention it was not a positive insight.
Prior to this scene we have Evan taking a selfie in his underwear in the gym locker room. Nothing is said, nothing is shown. He just takes the photo. When he finally meets the “friend” in the bar after the old man has scuttled off with his prize phone number, it turns out the friend is an internet hook up. The two move on to what I assume is a corridor somewhere and have sex. As the sex reaches it’s climax Jordan appears out of nowhere, delivering a gentle kiss, totally out of place in what was quite an aggressive scene to begin with.
The film had a charm – despite the lack of clarity as to its purpose – if it was viewed as a portrait of a young gay man making his way in life. Not all films needs to have life or death struggles and after I got over the awkwardness of it all I started to enjoy the film for what it was, even it made minimal sense in the overall run of the scenes.
But the unexpected twist in the final ten minutes of the film left me reeling. I had no idea what the hell happened. The film begins to send out a series of flashbacks which basically show Hunter having orchestrated the meet and having been stalking Evan prior to them meeting at all. All over a brief conversation at the top of a set of nightclub stairs between Jordan and Evan.
I assume the film makers were trying to give off the creepy psychological cat and mouse game vibe at this point, but given there had been absolutely no foreshadowing there was anything odd until the last ten or so minutes they failed miserably. The final scene with Hunter waking up next to a sleeping Evan, his eyes flashing open, a startled look on his face before the camera faded to black made no sense at all. If he was going to look that shocked at least have Evan lying beside him dead with this throat cut and the pristine white sheets stained red. Give us something to gasp at.
I believe that Seek does have merit as a film, but it is so clunky and awkward it screams the need to be developed further. The film could have been a great psychological excursion into obsession if it wasn’t so afraid to scratch beneath the surface. A perfect example of this is Evan’s female friend, who appears in 2 practically unnecessary scenes. When I watched it last night I couldn’t figure out why she was there, unless it was to give the film a female character.
The first time we meet her, she gets drunk, tries to seduce Evan and pitches a sulky tantrum when the gay guy, surprisingly, says he’s not interested. This is within the first 15 minutes of the film. She doesn’t reappear until almost the end of the movie. This time she picks a fight with him because he isn’t paying her any attention before storming out of the apartment.
Her character shows us nothing of Evan or herself but taken in the context of obsession – and with further development – the character could have been an interesting juxtaposition between the other obsessions – Evans for Jordan and Hunter for Jordan and Evan.
Overall Seek is a film that needed to bake longer in the oven. It’s like a pie whose crust is hard but the inside is still raw. It’s a shame the makers of Seek didn’t develop the script more. There was so much potential and I think that is why I was ultimately left thinking “Who do I need to speak to to give me back that 70-odd minutes.”
For such a short length the film could have been further developed and given the pacing it needed to be the film the actors in it deserved to have done.
Seek is released by TLA Releasing and is available for purchase on Amazon (at least that’s where I bought it.)