Life is bleak, and the people deserving of recognition don’t get it. Those who sit around telling others what to do reap the benefits of their subordinates’ hard work. The world depicted in This is the Rill Speaking is anything but enjoyable, and the entirety of the film presents viewers with an exaggerated, but honest, version of the real world. Strap in, because you might not like what you see.
What can you say about a film that seems to be stuck traveling in circles? I’m not even entirely sure where the film picks up. I recently watched a film called Death & Life, and This is the Rill Speaking feels very similar in tone to the aforementioned film. This is the Rill Speaking focuses on the dismal realities that exist in our world; and viewers are forced to face the hardships of the film’s protagonist as they are pulled through this unique film. It’s really hard to determine what This is the Rill Speaking is, because it’s subtle in its attempt to reach viewers. I’m digging deeper, deeper, attempting to figure out what the purpose is behind the film–and it’s one of the more difficult films I’ve attempted to understand.
Writer-Director Gabriel Rodriguez-Fuller is cryptic in his attempt to reach his viewers, and the fact that he’s so cryptic in his storytelling causes viewers to become intrigued–and that’s important in the grand scheme of the film.
To be honest, there were a few moments throughout the course of This is the Rill Speaking when I started to drift from the narrative, when I questioned whether or not the narrative was entertaining enough to keep viewers focused throughout. I know that there is a relevant message present in the film, but that message struggles to remain powerful enough throughout the course of This is the Rill Speaking. There are moments when the visuals distract from the message, and the message, as important as it is, needs to be the most prominent aspect of the entire film. It sometimes falls to the background and takes a backseat to other aspects of the film–and that’s bad for This is the Rill Speaking.
The visuals are simple, but they present viewers with somewhat of a conflict, and viewers are forced to question the film as a whole as a result. Again, the message is there about the debilitating reality in which we all live, but the often ambiguous visuals cause viewers to lose sight of the bigger picture from time to time.
The film’s protagonist (Elhadje Bah) is unassuming, calm, and representative of the average man. He fits the bill, and he’s able to convey the dilapidated simplicity of life. That’s a strange phrase: dilapidated simplicity–but the fact of the matter is that Rodriguez-Fuller is able to accomplish creating a film full of this sentiment. Bah feels honest in his depiction of mankind, and that’s not just a result of his acting ability, but of the way in which Rodriguez-Fuller writes the character as well.
Even though I’m not entirely sure that the intended message makes its way to viewers as effectively as it should have, things seem to come together by the end of This is the Rill Speaking. It comes together in the sense that viewers can see themselves in the narrative. The message may appear differently to viewers depending on where they exist in life, but I think a message exists within the confines of the narrative regardless. This is the Rill Speaking is a difficult film to understand, and it takes a significant amount of time to come to some sort of understanding regarding the narrative and what Rodriguez-Fuller is attempting to say. That journey can be somewhat daunting, and it will certainly turn some viewers off to the film. To the right viewers, This is the Rill Speaking is a powerful film, but I believe that the power that exists deep inside of it will be lost on many. I fall somewhere in the middle for this film. I encourage you to watch it because of what you may potentially gain from it, but what you take away will ultimately be up to you.
Written & Directed by Gabriel Rodriguez-Fuller.
Starring Elhadje Bah, Robert Laird, Dan Berkey, Brian Kelley, Jancie Creaney, etc.