A weed-horror film infused with chamber drama and elements of the buddy comedy, Tito is a strange and shaggy beast. A subtle depiction of how a combination of trauma, self-hatred, and medication can fill every waking moment with paranoia, Tito ambles between different genres much like its central character.
With seemingly no connection to the former leader of Yugoslavija, Tito (Grace Glowicki) is a gaunt, hunched-over young man with unwashed black hair down to his shoulders. Suffering from what appears to be sexual trauma, he is fearful of his own reflection, perpetually afraid of something lurking around the corner.
His fears are undefined, much like the opening moments of the film, creating tension through atonal, jumpy music and low-camera angles. The story snaps to attention with the sudden introduction of John (Benjamin Petrie), a friendly neighbour who breaks into Tito’s house and cooks him a full breakfast, resplendent with eggs, pancakes, fresh fruit and…weed. Lots and lots of weed.
It takes a little while before John (a highly magnetic, overly-friendly intruder played with great intensity by Petrie) and Tito become, if not exactly friends, then comfortable enough with each other’s presence, smoking endless joints and hanging out in the park. And with that first hit of green, Tito noticeably lightens up, finally able to talk.
Cannabis plays a central role here, influencing both the trippy style of the film and Tito’s inability to remain in control of his own situation, making Tito come across as a kind of PSA about the dangers of self-medicating. Elements of the cannabis comedy come into play, cleverly showing just how easily these moments can turn into horror. Likewise, John’s friendliness quickly turns into overbearance, displaying the paper-thin line between friend and foe.
Grace Glowicki, who also wrote and directed the film, plays across the gender line here; the artificiality of the character she has created is stressed by the amount of times John addresses him with words like “brother” and “man.” It’s an interesting queering of the victim experience that physically asks men to put themselves into women’s shoes, showing that sexual violence can happen to anyone, and asking for empathy across both sexes.
Nevertheless, Tito functions more as a mood piece than a strictly feminist tome, its bizarre lurches of tone, thoughtful sound design, and highly physical performances inviting a variety of contradictory readings. It’s unusually fun for a film of this type too, refusing to be pigeonholed into the standard trauma-horror genre, and showing how life goes on — and gets weirder! — even if you have gone through unimaginable pain.
Tito‘s fleet running time, covering only 70 minutes, works to its advantage, making it more of an extended short than a fully-fleshed out feature. While admittedly a bit lean in its topics, and lacking true psychological depth in favour of blissed-out atmospherics, Tito marks a promising feature debut from Glowicki, a strong proof-of-concept on the way to bigger things.
Final Girls Berlin Film Festival runs from February 6 — Feb 3. See programme for more details.