It is quite satisfying to be able to see a short film during a film festival and think out loud: “that needs to be made into a feature” and then realizing my sentiment has either psychically transcended time and space, or was already in the works ages ago. I saw the short film “Seafood Tester” during the No Festival Required Arizona Short Films back in 2013 and was blown away by the incredibly sad story, the relentless photography and the slowly burning reveal of the tragic characters. The short, University of Arizona thesis film has become the feature film “Unsound” (2014) written and directed by Darious Britt. Marking Britt’s debut as an actor as well as a feature film director, ‘Unsound’ has screened in 18 film festivals across the United States to date, including the San Francisco Black Film Festival; the American Black Film Festival in New York City; the Black Harvest Film Festival in Chicago; and the highly regarded Urban Work Film Festival in New York City. Among the accolades, Unsound was awarded Best Narrative Feature at the Roxbury International Film Festival in Boston, Second Place in Feature Film Competition in the Capital City Black Film Festival in New York City in August 2014. Locally, ‘Unsound’ has garnered the award for Best Arizona Film at the 2014 Prescott Film Festival and the Director’s Choice Humanitarian Award at the Sedona International Film Festival in March 2015. Britt currently works as a Media Specialist in the School of Theatre, Film & Television at the University of Arizona and plans to pursue a career in filmmaking as a director. ‘Unsound’ tells the story of Reginald (played by director Britt), an ambitious young filmmaker with an unquenchable affinity for antique Volkswagen Bugs. As Reginald sets out to create the ultimate career launching, classic Volkswagen documentary, his mother Darolyn (To-Ree-NeeWolf) succumbs to yet another episode of psychosis. Reginald must put his own career and ambitions on hold and face violence and abuse from his severely troubled mother in order to save her from herself and reclaim his own life.
It is the relentless pacing and story telling of ‘Unsound’ that makes this film so compelling, tragic and terrifying. Sinisterly smooth cinematography and deeply stylized sound bind and compel us to experience this tragic story. Based on true events, director Britt deliberately brings us into the void of mental illness and the blinding frustration of trying to help a family member in desperate need of treatment. As the lead character Reginald tries to maintain his own life while seeking help for his mother, his situation becomes direr as everything in life that he loved becomes a suffocating burden; his mother rejects him and his documentary film keeps him from caring for his mom. Every facet involved in seeking assistance for his mother is revealed in very stark, very direct terms. Reginald has already been down this road with treatment counselors and facilitators and will not relent until his mother is treated respectfully, yet appropriately, as she is already quite adept at manipulating the mental health system. When Darolyn is in treatment under compulsory medication, she is sharp, coherent and highly functional. Upon release, she is a danger to everyone around her, especially her own son who pleads constantly with his mother to come back from that dark place, before she is lost forever.
While this outstanding Tucson-made indie is clearly Britt’s film, Unsound is most definitely ToRee-Nee-Wolf’s show. Wolf flawlessly portrays the deeply disturbed Darolyn in constant contrast with herself: simultaneously repulsive, attractive, endearing and demeaning. As ‘Unsound’ definitely pleads for the proper care and treatment of the mentally ill, the film reaches out more to the families affected by Schizophrenia, not just the victims. ‘Unsound’ is a dark and relentlessly languid excursion into that terrifying place; the place that consumes the living and robs them of the person they once were. The cruel void that sometimes temporarily returns souls to their families, but only extremely conditionally. A threadbare release instantly revoked by the sinister static synapses of an orthicon tube, or the eavesdropping, glistening crystals embedded in the asphalt. ‘Unsound’ is an AZ indie that is not to be missed.
Final Take – Emotional rescue.
- Unsound (2014)
The strain of caring for his mentally ill mother becomes overwhelming for Reginald (Darious Britt) who will risk his own life and career to make sure his mother gets the help she needs.