It feels like the main character is an exaggerated form of how some people perceive themselves: constantly doing something so horrifically taboo that no one wants to mention it. The giant scar on his face is a great symbol for this: it's so obvious, but no one is willing to talk about it. And when they do, he makes up some excuse and refuses to actually address the issue or seek help.
The tone & narrative structure of TOWER push toward misdeed, violation of some sort. Simultaneously, Radwanski privileges energy dedicated 2 psychological hesitancy & aimlessness. The mise-en-scene is nearly non-existent: abrupt jump cuts, relentless close-ups & mediums, no real establishing shots, primarily constructive editing. What does society do w/ those without drive, distinction, or determination of any kind?
3.5 - very strong first full length - the camera almost entirely resting on Derek's face, often cutting and taking another position with the initial cut out of focus. a view that is very connected to a character who is very disconnected both from himself and from societal norms. a strange inspection of those who live as outsiders and how this person in particular floats through life.
The in your face, home movie feel adds to the reality of this uncomfortableness. The disturbing, ongoing shakiness, and one dimensional shooting style forces us to see Derek honestly, even though we want to ignore him, look away, not accept that we all know people like him. He's not a hero or handsome, but a person bored with family & friends. No escapist fantasy here, just honest and gritty realism. And it's enough.
Interesting. The raccoon thing is obviously a metaphor for him not being able to change his life. He just leaves the animal in the house and he flees. That's what most people do with issues in their lives, he's just an exaggerated depiction of that. I don't even think he's got Asperger. He seems to be able to socialize and do a lot of stuff, yet he still doesn't have any interest in life.
So I forced myself to sit through 36 minutes of this before turning it off. I started thinking of turning it off about 15-20 minutes in. I was sick of Derek's face, sick of his attitude and sick of his inarticulateness. I don't need to like a character but I do need to at least find them interesting in some fashion. Nothing here but surface rendered in relentless searching close ups - with nothing to find.
There's something unique about Radwanski's approach that really does deserve more than 2(.5) stars. A film as unpleasantly awkward as its protagonist, but never exploitative, exploring the character with an unmerited depth of grace... eliciting empathy, almost against the viewer's will, via uncomfortable, visceral close-ups and other impositions of intimacy. Like a nice & well-intended but unwanted, onerous gift.