Shut Up Anthony is a complex film, one that requires an intricate sense at listening to the small details, and appreciating the things that are often not said. Movies like these can often be a beacon for self-reflection. Amongst those films Shut Up Anthony is the self-facing camera on your phone that you unwittingly turn to and are taken aback with. The main character: Anthony (played by Robert A. D'Esposito), after a series of cringe-worthy misgivings, retreats to a family vacation home, talking the whole way. Yet, it’s only when you realize it’s what Anthony does not say do you truly get to the beauty of the film. It’s not easy to find an unlikable main character so relatable as one finds Anthony. Relating to a character like him can hold the uncomfortable truth that from an outside perspective, we can look absolutely absurd and dickish. For that reason, I feel Shut Up Anthony will struggle to be liked by those who do not deal well with self-reflection. Some people just can’t handle the truth.
That being said, the actual depth of each character shows something to be said about Kyle Eaton’s debut film. With an uncompromising eye to both frame and script, Kyle marries outer aesthetic with internal turmoil in a way that brings the characters to life. Tim, played by Jon Titterington, holds the place of being a deep quasi-antagonist; Sparring verbally with Anthony until tensions build to a final confrontation, Tim is both wonderfully typed and dialogued. It is rare to see two male characters talk on end about emotions in the way these two do. Both passive-aggressively and on a deep emotional level.
Besides the two male characters there exists a presence that I feel others fail to touch upon in their reviews. That of the wonderfully rich character of Sam (played by Katie Michels). Sam subverts the typical girlfriend role in this film and refuses to play into a shallow, single faceted stereotype. Instead, Michels brings the depth of a complex and multi-directional woman who knows where the line is, and how to deal with those who cross it. Sam’s character is one who can see the deeper side behind Anthony and his often inappropriate babbling, and yet, knows when the relationship is taking a toxic turn.
Shut Up Anthony is a film to be watched for its deepness in character, realness in the plot, and unique cinematography in all facets. Stay patient with Anthony as so many others do in this film, and you will reveal a deeper meaning to both his absence of words and your own.
Meeting up at The West I interviewed Kyle Eaton to get a take on his Brooklyn Film Festival showing and the future of Shut Up Anthony.
How’s everything been since the showing?
Kyle: Pretty good. We actually won a spirit award! I was pretty surprised. It essentially is a critic's choice that they felt like it best suited the spirit of what the Brooklyn Film Festival was all about. Any additional recognition is really nice, you know? It’s always nice to get a little nod for whatever you produce.
That’s pretty amazing! Where do you think Shut Up Anthony is going next?
I think the film might be going down the video on demand streaming route like everything these days. We’re coming into a time where theatrical releases aren't as common these days. I sort of have to reckon with the fact that everyone wants to view movies on their laptop nowadays. So although we have a festival circuit coming up, the final form might be more digital for at-home viewers.
I read some reviews that didn’t like Anthony, suggesting he spoke too much. How do you respond to that?
Kyle: The root of Anthony’s self-destructive behavior is talking as a way of dealing with his grief. Especially returning to the house where a very traumatic incident took place, is very personal in a way. It stings to know that people would base their entire review on the main character's likability when in all honesty, they're supposed to be a real people that go through real hurt and deal with it in their own ways, not characters who you’d fall in love with but characters who have depth.
I really loved Katie’s character, how did you determine her lines and personality?
Kyle: We were very intentional in working with Katie on this character, that we didn't want her be one-sided and “the girlfriend.” We wanted her to have her own set of beliefs and ways of dealing with things just as any other character in the film. As it ends, we don’t know what really happens to Sam and Anthony but we see her start to take control at the end of the film. Sam has her own demons and her own problems and we didn’t want her to be a cardboard cutout of a traditional role that we so often see in classic film.