BITS 2018: ‘Fugue’ Movie Review

In Tomas Street’s (The Plan 2011) feature length directorial debut, Fugue is about an amnesic named Malcolm (Jack Foley: Lifechanger 2018). The film immediately put me on edge as I watched Malcolm wake up, unsure of who or where he was. It was such an uneasy feeling that, if it wasn’t for the fact that I wanted to know what had happened to Malcolm, I might have switched it off. Keep reading to find out why.

‘Fugue’ poster artwork

The first act of the film – well, the first 20 minutes, really – comes across like it’s unfinished. There’s very little music or score, and the lighting is harsh and out of place. The house that Malcolm wakes up in is very clean and shiny with harsh white and chrome corners. Everything just feels wrong.

Then Malcolm “meets” his wife, who seems way too young for him… okay, that last bit is my judgemental side coming out for sure, but everything in this movie screamed amateur, broken and weird. There were single still, slow-moving pans of the house that felt like attempts at trying and failing to create establishing shots. I couldn’t stop thinking, “Wow, am I even watching the right film? Is this an unfinished copy?” And then there’s this dialogue that seems forced and just creepy. Don’t get me started on the sex scene… my skin crawled. I was like, “Stop! This is wrong, and I don’t even know why!”

Director Tomas Street behind the scenes

Thank goodness I continued watching. Finding the words on how to explain this film was actually quite tough because it can easily be spoiled. Let me put it this way – the film is told in three unique parts, which is nice and simplistic, but the story is anything but. The reason the film was so awkward and ill fitting in the beginning was to show the viewer what Malcolm was experiencing as a man without a memory. You feel uncomfortable for him, like he is weak and vulnerable, even though under the surface you can tell that there is way more than meets the eye with him.

Jack Foley on set

The second act explains how Malcolm got into this mess, and the third brings about a resolution that is fitting and satisfying… and that’s coming from someone that was about to switch the film off. Once Fugue had ended, I immediately looked up the actors and directors. I wanted to know what else they had been involved in, cause damn, that was an interesting ride.

Actors Jack Foley, Laura Tremblay and Mike Donis

After the initial shock of what the hell is going on, the film takes you on an uneasy journey, all set within one location. Suddenly, the first act choices make sense, and the story begins to fit together… but not quickly. The director cleverly allows you, the watcher, to discover some things on your own, just as Malcolm has to discover them himself.

The choices, score and dialogue all come together at the end. The film reminded me of an indie version of Panic Room. One of the strengths is the weight that Jack Foley brings to his character. Street tries to get you to believe that Malcolm is a broken, weak man because of his memory loss, but his eyes tell another story. Even the way he carries himself suggests so much. Also, I have a massive beard envy… What a great beard!

Jack Foley

Final Thoughts

In the end, Fugue is a tense, uneasy thriller that will hook you once you give it a chance. It’s brave, and frankly, very impressive for a debut film. On a side note – I think it really helped that I didn’t know a thing about this movie. I know I will be following this director’s career closely. I can’t wait to see what mind-boggling strangeness he will have for my eyeballs next. If you can find a screening of Fugue on the indie cinema circuit, then it would be well worth your time. Otherwise, catch it on streaming services. You’ll thank me.

About Ruben Lee Shaw

Movies have been a part of Ruben's life for as long as he can remember. His first film experience was E.T. when he was 5 in a dark grotty cinema in Amsterdam (at least that is how he remembers it). He grew up in South Africa and studied Film and Television production in the UK, which is where he now resides with his stunning wife, 2 interesting teenagers, a fat cat, a crazy dog, and sometimes a dark passenger, (his very imaginative imagination). He has worked on both features and short films and has experience as a journalist/reviewer for films, tv, and games. In 2016 he created his own super Geeky brand called The Ruby Tuesday.  Ruben has a love for horror and things that go bump in the night, although he himself will admit to being a scaredy-cat. Ruben's first teen-fantasy-horror novel is to be released in 2018. Some of his favorite creatives and their creations are Stephen King (It and on writing), Dean Koontz, (Odd Thomas series) Ridley Scott (Alien), C. S. Lewis (Narnia and Screwtape letters) John Carpenter (The Thing and Big Trouble in Little China), James Herbert (Rats) and Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labrythn, Hellboy and The Book of Life). Ruben continues to push the boundaries of his imagination and intends to release three novels and short films in the coming years.

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