A one-night stand turns tragic in Genevieve Okupniak’s Tethered. After Anna (Holland Geheny) and Alan (Matthew Schatz) hook up, Alan decides that it is time to head home. Anna, however, is under a different impression and, after referring to Alan as “Alex” instead, accidentally knocks Alan’s head onto the clothes hooks sticking out of her bedroom door, killing him instantly. Anna is a “lemons into lemonade” sort, however, and sees this as an opportunity to keep “Alex” with her, lashing the two together with rope. From there, Anna and the dead Alex begin the relationship that Anna always wanted. At least until the smell becomes unbearable.
This is the more gruesome, dramatic version of turning a dead body into a meat puppet that we didn’t get with Weekend at Bernie’s. Obviously, something is wrong with Anna, as she was already misinterpreting who she was with and the entire hook up differently before the accident happened. Once things got bloody, however, things really cracked.
At the same time, this is a film about closure and coping with loss. Whoever this “Alex” is that she’s really missing, Anna obviously never got over him. While strapping yourself to a dead body to work through your feelings is a bit extreme, it nonetheless appears effective for her. If, you know, that’s what was going on.
Because, to be honest, I wasn’t always sure. What you’ve just read is how I explained the film to myself, but I could be completely off. There’s an image of a scar on Anna’s hip early on that seemed to suggest something, and the end of the film also added what felt like an unnecessarily confusing image, making me really doubt my interpretation. I don’t know if it’s a case of the filmmakers going a bit too clever for their own good, the narrative being jumbled or me just being a bit slower than usual, but I definitely left the film pretty confused.
Other elements that threw me off a bit were the intermittent usage of voiceover to represent Alex’s side of the relationship, to show what it was Anna was thinking he’d be saying. It would work a little better if it were consistently employed, but sometimes she’s talking with him and he’s responding, and other times he’s not. What this does is, when it is employed, really make it feel out of sync with the rest of the film. Again, had the usage been more consistent, it would be less of an issue. That said, I actually wouldn’t have minded had it never been employed, because I liked the subtlety of Anna’s interactions with a silent, dead partner.
In the end, Tethered gets points for going a bit more gruesome and disturbing with its plot than other films have done with similar situations (though I have yet to see an instance of a film properly dealing with what happens when the dead body strapped to the main character voids its bowels; not that I really want to). It didn’t always work for me on a narrative level, and sometimes you could see the “dead” guy breathing, but it wasn’t a bad attempt. A little rough around the edges, is all.
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