Recent Movie Marathon: Ham on Rye (2020)

Happy New Year! Today I’ll be sharing my reviews of a binge watch of recent films (released within the past 18 months or so)!

Title: Ham on Rye
Release Date: October 23, 2020
Director: Tyler Taormina
Production Company: Tago Clearing Film Studio | Omnes Films

Ham on Rye is a surreal, coming-of-age drama with a touch of comedy that begins with several teenagers getting dressed up in semiformal attire and making their way to a big event in their prosperous suburban town. Many of them walk together in small groups and we get to hear snatches of conversation on typical teenage concerns. Even so, there are some things that are a bit odd such as one girl sharing a postcard from an older sister who has moved away from their hometown and all the girls studying the anodyne message as if it was the talmud.

When they all finally arrive at their destination, it is not a high school gymnasium decorated for the prom, but instead a delicatessen in a strip mall called Monty’s. The teens have a meal, and gradually begin to socialize before a strange pair-bonding ritual takes place. Then things get really weird.

The second half of the film focuses on the older residents of the town, particularly some young adults who would’ve recently finished college. They gather in groups with many at a cook-out where absolutely no one is having fun. Meanwhile, a teen named Haley (Haley Bodell) – who freaked out and left Monty’s early – tries to figure out what happened to all of her friends. No answers are given.

The movie works as a metaphor for the idea of how some people “get out” of small towns while others are left down. It also works in illustrating how adulthood is a let down compared with the hopes and anticipation of teenagers. The movie is beautifully filmed with an excellent soundtrack and naturalistic performances by largely unprofessional actors. It’s very unsettling and not satisfying as a story, but it does have a feeling to it that touches something true.

Rating: ****

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