Starring: Jalyn Hall, Trevante Rhodes, Shamier Anderson, and Shinelle Azoroh
Director: Miles Warren
My expectations for Bruiser were low considering how little buzz it has received, but this sleeper hit is fantastic. Rarely do coming-of-age films force us to reflect on the actions of our parents in the way that Bruiser does. While the side characters are relegated to being plot devices, the four main characters are incredibly well developed. Jalyn Hall, in particular, gives a powerful and nuanced performance as Darious, effectively communicating the character’s internal struggles. It’s a different kind of coming-of-age story with real characters and engaging visuals.
A better-than-good debut feature for director Miles Warren, Bruiser carefully treads on themes of possessive fatherhood and adolescent aimlessness without resorting to overwrought dramatics…until it resorts to slightly overwrought dramatics. While everything leading up to the finale is well realized and the performances are as good as they can be (especially from Shamier Anderson and Jalyn Hall), the film’s finale ultimately undoes just enough of that goodwill to make this indie blend in amongst its peers rather than stand out. That said, it is nice to see Trevante Rhodes getting more work, and those first two acts are great.
Bruiser, a film I wanted to see but missed at Toronto International Film Festival, is a small, beautiful film that packs a thoughtful punch. It uses a somewhat fresh coming-of-age story to raise compelling questions about masculinity, fatherhood, nature v. nurture, inner demons, past mistakes, and the idea of whether people can change. While I’m sure some people can relate to the story far more than I can, I still found some easy parallels to my own life. A loose mix between Moonlight and Mud, the film also is another showcase for Trevante Rhodes, who seems poised to take the next step in his career.