Every year at Toronto After Dark, there are usually a couple of films that surprise me. These are usually movies that have flown underneath my radar and end up being so entertaining that I can’t believe I hadn’t heard more buzz about them beforehand. This year, one of those films was definitely Charles de Lauzirika’s debut feature, Crave.
Crave tells the story of a middle-age freelance photographer named Aiden (Josh Lawson) who finds himself growing weary of the society around him. Being that much of his work involves photographing crime scenes for a detective (played by Ron Perlman), he has developed a hatred for those who would victimize others. Throughout his day, he fantasizes about standing up to the rude and awful people that he encounters; exacting what he feels would be justice upon them. As his mental condition deteriorates further and further, he begins to have more trouble distinguishing fantasy from reality, until one day, he meets a young woman in his building (Emma Lung) who is fresh out of a relationship with a seemingly seedy guy (Edward Furlong). Before long, the two are dating, and that seems to help make things better. However, Aiden’s solace only lasts so long, and soon he finds his ability to control his actions, and his grasp on reality, slipping even further. The result has deadly consequences…
Obvious comparisons have been made between Crave and Taxi Driver. Both films feature a main character who is disgusted with society; eventually taking him to a very dark place. However, unlike Taxi Driver’s Travis Bickle, Aiden is a genuinely likeable person in a lot of ways. This means that not only can the audience relate to his anger at the world around him, but they can sympathize with his actions for the most part. Another difference between the two films is that Lauzirika made a very wise choice to inject humor into what would otherwise be a very bleak story. There are a lot of (very dark) laughs throughout the film, and the mixture of humor and drama really keeps the viewer on their toes; especially once it is established that what you are seeing may not be what is actually happening in reality. At first, this change in tone seems rather jarring, but ultimately, it works very well, and it’s a credit to Lauzirika’s talent that he was able to pull the combination off so well.
Since this is a character-driven film, it’s important that the leads give believable performances, and in this case, both Lawson and Lung deliver. As mentioned before, Lawson’s character of Aiden is very likeable, and even if you ultimately can’t empathize with him, you never find yourself condemning him. The actor does a great job of portraying an outsider who just wants to be loved, and he really sells the gags throughout the picture with his comic timing. Likewise, Lung does a very good job as the love interest in the film. It’s hard not to be taken by her, and it’s easy to understand why Aiden feels so drawn to her. She hits all the right notes and puts just the right amount of vulnerability on display, making you understand why she might be attracted to someone like Aiden. Though his part is small, Perlman is fantastic (as always), and even Furlong manages to redeem himself from his horrid (and possibly drugged-out) performance in the Night of the Demons remake. All in all, it’s a solid cast, and everyone sells the material.
I also have to give kudos to cinematographer William Eubank, who manages to make the city of Detroit equal parts bleakly grimy and vibrant. There are some really impressive images on display here, and I often found myself caught up in the use of color and framing of the shots. I haven’t seen any of the other films that Eubank has shot, but after his work in Crave, I am very interested to see what he does next.
At the end of the day, Crave not only managed to surprise me, but it held me rapt for the entire 113 minute run-time. Director Charles de Lauzirika’s feature debut is thought-provoking, dramatic, and very funny, blending genres to give us a unique take on a theme that has been done several times before. Because of these things, I wholeheartedly recommend Crave to genre fans and film-lovers alike.
For more info on Crave, visit its Official Website.