#TIFF22 On Miles Warren’s Bruiser (2022)

by Jacqueline Valencia

Director: Miles Warren

Toxic masculinity hurts everyone. It carries itself through intergenerational trauma and can prevent tenderness and empathy in times of conflict. In Bruiser, Miles Warren explores the complexities of toxic masculinity in a nuanced coming of age story.

Fourteen year old Darious (Jayln Hall) comes home from the private school his father, Malcolm has diligently worked hard to get him into. His mother, Monica, parents him with patience and sincerity. One day, Darious gets involved in a physical altercation and finds solace in the appearance of a stranger, Porter. Things come to a tilt once Darious finds out who Porter really is.

From start to finish, Bruiser is packed with tension. Each scene feels like things can explode at any moment, enhanced greatly by the fiery soundtrack by Robert Ouyang Rusli. The camera focuses greatly on Jaylan Hall’s face and mannerisms, offering a protective shell of light around Darious’ character. His father, Malcolm (Shamier Anderson) and an estranged friend, Porter (Trevante Rhodes) often clash, even in the silent moments. It is in the still moments where there’s crisis and even sweetness, as is seen with Darious’ mother, Monica (played by Shinelle Azoroh), where the cast’s performances fill the screen. The rural setting of their homes is a living backdrop that seems to have never changed with time, while Darious, Malcolm, Porter, and Monica move around like chess pieces on a board. And when they do, there’s fire and air where anything and anyone can get extinguished in their paths.

Miles Warren direction treats his subject matter and the space he presents it in, with deft hands and sensitivity. Bruiser is a heartbreaker exposing the vulnerabilities of relationships when they are not cared for with honesty and an aim for resolution. I see a great future for Jaylan Hall, he lights up the screen. I hope to see him in many more things in the future.

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