“Tyrel” isn’t the name of its lead character, a young black man joining a boozy excursion hosted by a bunch of white dudes, nearly all of whom he doesn’t know. Our protagonist is Tyler, but the letter-reversing, implied black-ification of the name in Sebastián Silva’s squirm-inducing character study of racial alienation, is also a symbol of how forced the movie’s high-wire act of suspense and sympathy is.
Jason Mitchell’s friendly but reserved New York restaurateur tags along with buddy Johnny (Christopher Abbott) for a weekend stag party in the woods celebrating the birthday of Johnny’s friend Pete (Caleb Landry Jones). Though no one is openly threatening and Johnny routinely keeps tabs on his friend’s feeling included in the shenanigans, the wintry air of isolation, testosterone, pranking and whiteness triggers in Tyler a form of personality disintegration, a psychological precipice made worse by the free-flowing alcohol and increasingly daring antics. (Silva regular Michael Cera is also part of the group.)
If “Get Out” comes to mind, certainly with Jones in the cast, you may think of this drink-fueled scenario for Tyler as the Sodden Place. Mitchell’s commandingly pain-stricken performance — a pinwheel of wariness, confusion and anxiety — is certainly something to admire, but Silva’s affinity for social discomfort, also exhibited in “Crystal Fairy” and “Nasty Baby,” has finally reached what feels like a clinical dead-end this time around. “Tyrel” is a lab experiment with no insight into feelings of otherness beyond the blinding light directed at its wigged-out subject.
Running time: 1 hour, 26 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica; also on VOD