Surrender (2016): Allegorical Alcoholism (Review)

Aram Hekinian in Surrender

Written by Mark Renshaw and directed by Christopher Carson Emmons, Surrender can be seen as an allegorical allusion to alcoholism. Sort of a short homage to The Lost Weekend with Aram Hekinian, as Dave, who steps into Ray Milland’s shoes without the DT’s. 

The film follows Dave who looks to be pretty much rock bottom with an addiction to booze that is taking over his life. His personal demons prey on weaknesses that manifest themselves as people who may, or may not, be real.

Surrender is, for all intents and purposes, a silent film. No dialogue is featured until the very tail end of the film. The closing dialogue is short and to the point; offering to help Dave defeat the “monster” in his head.

There are very subtle and brilliant touches throughout the film.  The bottle of alcohol (disguised as a water bottle) is labelled “Drink Me.” As any alcoholic will avow, bottles of booze almost literally call out to them.

Stephen King relates in his “semi-biographical” book on writing that he had to drink all the beer in his fridge. If he did not, the unopened bottles would “call out” to him.

(King also rather revealingly tells of his conversation with a doctor who asked him, “how much do you drink?” King replied, “All of it.” A telling statement that uncovers more of the alcoholic state of mind than anything else. Coincidentally, the doc did not “get it.”)

Renshaw and Emmons manage to use a lot of allegory to get their point across. The desirable redhead with the paper message “Give In” is really Dave’s desire to drink. The sounds of sizzling when the man guzzles his booze is indicative of the addictive fires within.

Early on in the film, we see Dave struggling to act normally at home. He manages to maintain the facade when interacting with his wife and daughter but fails miserably when the child is absent.

It appears that Dave has gone right past the functioning alcoholic stage and is in the “falling down” stage.  The scene where he is laying on the pavement outside his apartment building (where his watch floats across the sidewalk toward his prone body) indicates lost time.

These clever little touches conveys the sense of lost time very clearly.  With little to no dialogue Renshaw  shows that at this point in the two relationships; Dave’s marriage and his alcoholism, conversation is not really necessary.

Dave’s wife Julie knows there is nothing she can say and when it comes to the alcohol, Dave realizes that there is nothing he can say or do to overcome his personal monster. It is the last ditch intervention that enables him to at last find his voice.

Surrender could apply to what Dave himself has done with his addiction thus far. In the scenes of his drunken activities, the man certainly seems to be going congenially along for the ride. It is only when things spiral out of control that things change.

This is less of a morality tale than it is a cautionary one. Dave clearly enjoys his alcoholic binges until they intrude upon his family life.  His desires as a husband and a father come to the fore only when he is confronted.

Surrender is an award winning film that earns a full 4.5 stars. It makes its point almost effortlessly with a minimum of dialogue.  The visual focus on Dave and his allegorical “demons” speaks volumes without a lot of expository explanation.


Author: Mike's Film Talk

Former Actor, Former Writer, Former Journalist, USAF Veteran, Former Member Nevada Film Critics Society

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"I hold it, that a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical."

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