[Update] It was pointed out that the character who speaks with Drew at the shower was omitted in the review, in terms of casting. This has now been rectified. Mike’s Film Talk apologies for this oversight.
Written, directed and edited by Steven Alexander Russell Tastes Like Medicine is a stark look at relationships, people and trauma. A young man has the love of his life leave him and five years later is invited to her baby shower. He goes through a meltdown at the party and creates a schism within himself. One where reality takes a different path from his own tortured perception of events.
Allison (Marisa Rambaran) leaves Drew (Damion Rochester) and he is a broken man because of it. At the start of the film, he has an inner monologue with himself while looking at Allison’s face. Later, he arrives a the baby shower and brings along a call girl as his date.
Kake (Wi-Moto Nyoka) is quiet and much more than she seems. Inside the party, the two separate and Drew withdraws into himself. Alex (Randall Holloway) attempts to talk with Drew but he is not overly interested. Alex, however, makes a valid point in his discussion about crime and criminal records. Once a murderer always a murderer is the theory. In other words, once an act is committed the reality of it stays regardless of one’s future actions.
It seems to apply to Drew in his prior relationship with Allison.
Once the announcements are over, Drew behaves badly, so badly in fact that he appears to separate himself . His other self watches in helpless horror as his actions get worse. As the things progress Drew’s grasp on reality gets weaker and tougher to maintain.
This short film by Russell is brilliantly presented as an almost fugue state of surrealism. The film is shot in black and white, which is clearly meant to convey that in Drew’s world of relationships things are rather stark.
At the party, as things become more stressful for Drew, there is a sound that is evocative of fingers rubbing across a balloon or stretching rubber. This shows that Drew’s ability to deal with the situation is out of his control.
Later, in Kake’s apartment, Drew wakes up and Kake looks on. Above the bed is a small mirror where her face shows and it looks as if there are two Kake’s watching Drew. This further example of a schism, the first being Drew’s “out of body” experience at the shower, shows how far things have gotten out of control.
Russell’s message appears to be that once the deed is done, refusal to accept the consequences affects everyone. Drew looks so closely at the issues of Allison leaving and why that he fails to see he has to move on.
Considering that most of the cast are first-time actors, the film moves along crisply and each character is presented well and with moments of truth. The storyline has a number of hints and almost subliminal messages about Drew’s state of mind.
Tastes Like Medicine is a 4.5 star film, only losing a half star because of sound issues. The effects of Drew’s out of body left some of the dialogue incomprehensible. Apart form that the presentation was nigh on flawless. (That mirror shot alone was worth the price of admission.) And the psychological aspects were just brilliant.
This is Steven Alexander Russell’s first time out of the gate and he has created a clear winner with this film. Russell is another one to keep an eye on. Tastes Like Medicine is currently on the festival circuit.