Hanging out with friends of a friend is always awkward, especially when you do not know the people well. That awkwardness ramps up when you realize you’re the only Black friend in the friend circle; the language, conversations and culture are so different it can put you on edge. Tyrel attempts to tell this story of a Black friend’s weekend with white drunken cohorts. Unfortunately, the Sebastián Silva-directed film feels aimless and doesn’t really go anywhere with its story.
Tyler (Jason Mitchell) is trying to escape his home for the weekend when his girlfriend has family over. Tyler’s friend Johnny (Christopher Abbott) extends an invite to his friend’s home upstate and he accepts. While interacting with Johnny’s friends, Tyler quickly feels uneasy by the cultural differences between himself and his white acquaintances. As the alcohol starts flowing, Tyrel’s paranoia increases and he begins to feel desperate.
The discomfort of being the only Black person in the room is something not all people (especially the mostly-white audience at my screening) have experienced. But that discomfort is viable and valid to many Black folks. And while we are not monolithic, there are many experiences that we’ve shared no matter the walk of life. Jason Mitchell always delivers in his performances, and this one is no different. From my point of view, you could tell it was effortless to emote that awkwardness, because he’s been in that position before. The relatability of his character is the sole highlight of this film.
The story however, much like a drunk Tyler in the middle of night, wanders with no real direction. It’s unclear what message Silva was trying to convey with this story. By the end of the film, it feels like an insight that hasn’t been fleshed out to create a solid narrative. Critics have compared this to Get Out, and while I have an adverse reaction to comparing two Black films, this film does have a similar vein of awkward interactions. But while Get Out was crafted to make a social statement, Tyrel has no bite to it. Not to say that all films need to make such a statement, but films do need to have a purpose.
It’s disappointing that Tyrel had a lot of promise with a talent like Jason Mitchell at the center. While possessing a solid premise, it never fully materializes into something of substance. Like Michael Cera in a durag (this really happens in this film), the way it under-delivers is a shame.