Imagine Tony Soprano had no affiliation with the mob; instead of spending time amidst criminals and criminal-related activity, he was addicted to computer games.
Fat, lazy, selfish, childish and at times unnecessarily violent, these are the same characteristics of Erwin, the very unlikeable protagonist conceptualised by Canadian director Kazik Radwanski and actor Erwin Van Cotthem.
On first impressions Erwin may seem like your typical family man; middle-aged and overweight, living with his wife (Kate Ashley) and two children. He has a respectable job and enjoys playing rugby and having a beer with his mates. However, most nights or whenever else he can find the time, Erwin sits alone playing a fantasy game on his computer – he’s addicted.
It’s clearly impacting his personal life, and Erwin soon starts to neglect his responsibilities. He’s physically exhausted from playing all night, often falling asleep at family outings, but also detaches himself mentally from the real world. Erwin becomes isolated and frustrated with the people closest to him and eventually decides to move to his own place.
So he settles into a new life, free to drink and play computer games as much he wants, which is great… for a while at least. However, Erwin soon realises the situation he created for himself is also a lonely one – and in the end the real question is whether or not he’s too lazy and selfish to do anything about it.
Just as Erwin gazes blankly at his computer screen, Radwinski and Cotthem evoke the same behaviour from viewers, who can’t help but be mesmerised by this miserable creature – partly fascinated by his antics but also terrified that it’s not far from reality for many people these days.
Radwanski uses an intense operatic score to depict these key sequences, switching between the actual gameplay and a close-up of Erwin’s face. The music is used effectively as both a representation of the character’s obsession but also ironically, to illustrate the insignificance of his actions.
The ambiguous ending will have audiences divided but that shouldn’t detract from the performances within. Van Cotthem makes you love to hate him and Kazik Radwanski seems to be cementing himself as a master of character studies, clearly one of Canada’s most exciting new talents.
All in all, it’s a quiet-achieving gem that will definitely make you evaluate your own relationship with technology. For that, it’s definitely worth a watch.