Ham on Rye (Taormina, 2019): USA

Reviewed by Matheus Clorado. Viewed at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2019.

Ham on Rye held its world premiere with two screenings during the 2019 Santa Barbara International Film Festival. The feature also earned director/writer Tyler Taormina a nomination for the Panavision Spirit Award for Independent Cinema.

When asked about it, Taormina encapsulated his movie’s essence effortlessly. “It’s about holding on to innocence and youth before the real world kind of comes in and does its thing,” he said during a red carpet interview.

Following the journey of several teenagers during the most important of all adolescence nights, Rye touches on American culture, suburban living, and coming of age. Carson Lund’s precise choices of color and editing have absolutely turned an avant-garde piece of writing from Eric Berger and Taormina into a kaleidoscope of evocative filmmaking skills. Combined with its music, Ham on Rye blooms as a genuine sensorial experience.

From purple skies to Tibetan bells, the viewers witness a more complex storytelling universe, where ironically form is not the norm. The imperative here lies in conveying the awakening of its many characters to the passage of time and the birth of their own societal responsibility. Innocence slips away at each frame, bringing the feature to life. Infused with an indica humor, the boldness of its art expression gets delivered smoothly, toning down its Gaspar Noé-like cleverness.

Nostalgia is transmuted into a more profound reflection, a dive into consciousness and purpose. Ham on Rye‘s message is of such depth that watching it feels like staring at a lake’s surface or a mirror, as if the movie could watch you back. Friends since childhood, these filmmakers are certain to launch into the vast dimensions of psychedelic possibilities in their future works, filled with thought-provoking subtle imagery and youth relevance.

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