“Perhaps the first queer film to directly address the subject of alt-right influence on outsider identity in middle America.” — Variety
After years in hiding and struggling to control his demons, an eccentric drifter returns home and discovers that his childhood abuser, the center of his pain, is still alive. Armed with this knowledge, the drifter plots his revenge, all the while navigating the perilous land of masculine fragility in modern-day America.
“A dizzying cinematic reckoning, it’s finger on the pulse of the American zeitgeist.” — Michael Stipe, REM
Late in the summer of 2015, I needed to do something that felt urgent and unafraid. I was driving around central Texas in a borrowed van that was a radio/cassette situation, so I indulged in talk radio. Having grown up in rural Ohio, I was familiar with the A.M. dial, but what I heard sounded noticeably different, like the drumbeat to war. There was an unhinged desperation in these voices and the rumbling sounds of the “alt-right”.
In Texas towns, both big and small, I turned on gay hookup apps like Grindr and Hornet to see how 2015 was translating among locals. I expected to find closeted guys, but I wasn’t prepared for the degree of racism, internalized homophobia, and the general fear of being seen, that was rampant. What fascinated me most were the profiles labeled discreet, and the men hiding behind black boxes in lieu of faces or even anonymous torsos. Shame was feeding the darkness, amplifying mythologized ideas of what a real man should be. It was the same wholesome mythology being propagated by rural -assumed straight- white conservatives. Many of these guys on the apps are no different than the men on conservative radio. They’re both terrified of being outed as a lesser version of this kind of a Marlboro man ideal. It’s fear of being emasculated.
I think in all my work I’ve put a premium on men who express vulnerabilities very candidly. I’ve explored this with sex and intimacy, but also in terms of loneliness and isolation. I wanted to write something that embodied this kind of “nation on the edge” anxiety. I set out to write a story that explored the ways in which populist insecurities about losing power intersected with, and informed, individual views on masculinity and sexuality. Alex, the hero in the film, is a distillation of this caustic soup.