Streamer, directed by Jared Bratt and Vincent Pun, opens with an image somehow both striking and simplistic. It’s the image of a man, and he’s staring directly into the camera. He begins talking about himself in incredibly personal ways: he’s deeply lonely, he’s never had a genuine relationship with a girl, he’s 28 years old and yet to lose his virginity. It’s a moment of pure honesty and an ingenious way of creating empathy with a character that, for the most part, makes up 50% of your film’s cast.
While it does feel a tad exposition-heavy, the moment ultimately succeeds when it’s given context soon after. The man is called Jared (played by director Jared Bratt), he’s recorded and uploaded this video to YouTube as a cry for help. In a haunting montage, Jared’s living room – and, in that, his body, his soul – is illuminated only by his laptop screen while the video is uploading. This cry for help is the only light in his life.
The montage unfortunately ends on a sour note – a shot of Jared looking wistfully off camera with a single tear streaking down his face. It takes the feel and tone of the montage and puts it into a physical image, but not nearly as successfully as you’d like. In the end, that turns out to be a pretty apt way of summing Streamer up on the whole – this is a tense, intimate and at times stunning feature that ultimately derails in its very final moments.
The Look And The Feel
It’s a real shame the final minute is so misjudged, but we need not focus on that – to do so would be to divulge spoilers anyway. Jared is lonely, he spends his evenings watching cam girls on live-streams. One day he heads down to the basement of his apartment block to do his laundry and discovers that one of the girls he has been watching (Tanya Lee, credited as “The Girl”) actually lives a few floors below him. Having struggled to form a connection with her through the online medium, he attempts to bond with her personally instead, but soon the two worlds begin to clash and Jared’s increasing confidence threatens to be his undoing.
From that very first striking image, Streamer is a beautiful film to look at. The blindingly clinical whites of the laundry room emphasise the lack of warmth Jared feels, and whenever he watches the girl on her live stream his face is illuminated in a passionate but also sinister red glow. Jared’s finger repeatedly hovers over his touch pad, ready to click – the tiny gap between skin and computer feels both close and endless, as if the lines between personal and online interaction are ready to blur in a heartbeat. There’s even a breathtaking shot of Jared’s rectangular computer screen reflecting in his round eyes, perhaps symbolising two entities coming together for the first time.
As well as looking great, Streamer has an excellent command of tone. Long bursts of silence frequently punctuate Jared and the girl’s first real connection, creating an atmosphere that should feel warm and optimistic but instead feels somewhat unnerving. It allows us to travel further into Jared’s mind: the film’s opening scene sets him up as a lonely soul, his mind is bound to go blank when an attractive woman is speaking to him. By not overdoing the soundtrack or cutting away to a new scene, Streamer allows Jared’s awkwardness to become our awkwardness too.
A Personal Loneliness
Bratt‘s decision to play the lead character gives the film an immensely personal feel, especially when coupled with the obvious fact that both protagonist and director share a forename. Bratt‘s performance here is exceptional, while his line reading occasionally feels forced in the early moments (you watch him grow in confidence as a performer as the film proceeds) his body language and facial expressions are infinitely more revealing than any spoken words. A scene featuring Jared simply watching the stream after his first personal encounter with the girl is spellbinding in the array of emotions it brings across through a combination of Bratt‘s performance and the film’s atmospheric work.
Adding to the film’s well thought out depiction of loneliness, for a long period of time the only two characters who speak on screen are Jared and the girl. We hear acquaintances of Jared when they phone him, and we see actors playing other people in a short film Jared has made, but this works to reinforce the mind frame of a lonely person – these people feel peripheral, they’re there but we don’t get to see them in the flesh. By refusing to include any other speaking role besides Jared and the girl, Streamer‘s first two acts feel persistently focused, unrelenting in their desire to delve deeper into Jared’s mentality.
Where the film eventually stumbles, though, is the moment it abandons this two handed approach. The nature of the third speaking role shouldn’t be spoiled prior to viewing the film so I’ll refrain from saying here. While it admittedly does feel like the logical next step for the story to take, Streamer can’t help but lose some of the intricacy and intimacy of all that came before. The film also begins toying with hallucinations and narrative fake-outs to mixed results, and the less said about its very final moment the better, really.
Streamer‘s impact outlives its misjudged final moment, though. This is a film that stays with you after you’ve finished it, one that invites second viewings for a multitude of reasons. Bratt and Lee have undeniable chemistry, their scenes together fizzle when they need to fizzle and flatline when they need to flatline. Streamer‘s analysis of loneliness and isolation and the human need for companionship seems like a long task for a film of 79 minutes, but its intimate focus allows the film to succeed as a streamlined and relentlessly gripping character study.
There’s an awful lot of promise here for Bratt as a filmmaker and as a performer, and I’ll be more than on board for whatever he decides to go to next.
Did you find Streamer to be an effective character study, or did its depleted character roster eventually run dry for you? Let us know in the comments!
Streamer currently has no release date. For all upcoming release dates, see here.