In a year that has been dominated by big budget films, The Dirties stands out from the formulaic albeit entertaining blockbusters. It’s a story that is not just darkly funny but remains entertaining while touching on heavy material.
A joint release by Phase4films and Kevin Smith’s Movie Club, The Dirties is the brainchild of Matthew Johnson. Even with his hands full as writer, director, producer and editor, Johnson also headlines the film as one of the two main protagonists and the director of the film inside the film.
The mockumentary style that The Dirties is filmed in adds authenticity to it’s setting as it’s actually filmed by high school students, which helps disguise its budgetary shortcomings as more artistic choices.
The film opens with a collage of seemingly random film clips shot by two friends, Matt and Owen, for an amateur filmmaking class assignment. Showing them laughing, joking and enjoying life acts as a simple yet deceptive opening that belies the film’s true emotions and thematic intent.
In the beginning, the film inserts moments of humor into the dark subject matter that are so light that the movie reads less like a dark comedy and more like two friends filming their daily lives. Yet below the happy surface are two kids falling victim to what would not be out of place in any high school: bullying. It’s the most prevalent theme in the film and acts as the driving force behind every action and reaction between the characters.
If the film stopped at merely being about two kids being bullied than its other subject matter, though tragic, would not be as engaging as it is. The meat of the story lies in how Matt finally snaps and acts out on what were once only fantasies of bringing a gun to school and solving all his perceived wrongs with violence.
It’s a topic which by its very nature makes people uncomfortable, yet The Dirties makes it as pleasant as possible.
The Dirties is crystal-clear about what it believes to be the root cause of school shootings and is unapologetic in the way that it shows Matt having been unstable long before the events of the film.
Even with Matt’s obvious flaws and Owen’s depressing and miserable existence, it’s easy to care about the two characters.
The acting in The Dirties is not particularly strong nor is its camera work fantastic, but what makes this film such a standout is the story that it tells. And it is a story that needs to be told.
The movie takes a look at a subject that in most mainstream forms of media is untouchable, giving the viewer a real human look at a subject that is ever-present in modern North American life.
Bold, entertaining and telling an important story, The Dirties sets its sights on the shooter rather than the victims and provides an unflinching gaze at what makes a high school-aged time bomb tick.