Directed by Lou Howe
Convinced that reuniting with his old girlfriend will bring his dreams to fruition, Gabriel risks it all in a desperate and increasingly obsessive pursuit.
See more films
★★★★½ review by Eli Hayes on Letterboxd
Nothing short of exemplary, especially for a directorial debut. Just immensely realistic in every sense of the word, and one of the best explorations of mental illness and its effect on the familial structure that you're likely to find, not just in terms of 2015 release, but anywhere.
I wish I could say that I didn't relate to this film as much as I did (for reasons separate from its investigation of mental disorders), but I can't; it really, really hit home. I saw my own family in this family, with the deceased father, now only existing through memories, the traumatized but wholly-loving mother having to wonder where her son has gone off to, and the clean-cut, nonplussed brother. And then Gabriel, or should I say me, the younger brother who has caused his family a great deal of pain, but doesn't know how to better himself, doesn't know how to escape the shell of his brain or jump loose from the skin the makes up the most exterior layer of his body.
Some have been underwhelmed by this film's ending, but I would argue that Gabriel, fittingly, has no beginning or end. It's a slice of life with a cyclical nature, like the coming and going of the mind's instability. And Rory Culkin is such a talent.
★★★★ review by Keith Garrett on Letterboxd
Definitely one of the better depictions of mental illness I've seen recently. It doesn't demonize or condescend the character which is incredibly important.
Totally absorbing and Rory Culkin is heartbreaking. I wish this one got more attention.
★★★★ review by Anna Imhof 🌸 on Letterboxd
I have a soft spot for the Culkin brothers. Macaulay, Kieran, Rory. You name them, I love them. They’re true eccentrics. What’s more, it feels like they’ve got the purest talent running through their veins. If they went to the doctor for a blood draw, I’m fairly certain they wouldn’t bleed blood but but sparkly rainbow colors. That talent, in my opinion, is vastly underrated and underused, quite possibly even by the boys themselves.
I remember the first time I saw Rory Culkin, starring opposite Laura Linney and Mark Ruffalo in the brilliant You Can Count on Me as a wee little boy, and to this day this remains one of my favorite performances by a child actor. He then went on to impress me in Mean Creek, and was easily the best thing in and about Signs. A couple of years ago I saw an interview with him in which he stated he wasn’t interested in acting anymore, and I think he said he was gonna become a stage designer or something. Worst of all it sounded like he meant it. My heart sank. You mean you’re gonna paint castles on a wall, with your back towards the audience? No! Do whatever makes you happy, but no! Looks like the universe heard me or something, ’cause Gabriel is a movie and Rory is in it. And his performance here doesn't leave an inch of room for doubt. This kid is meant to be seen and experienced. His emotional depth and the maturity of his delivery are astounding.
Gabriel is a character study of a young man who is holding on to the past. A boy who is trying to deal with the death of his father. He and his father shared a certain pain — some might call it mental illness, others might call it hypersensitivity. It’s also the story of a boy who loves too much. A man who is therefore destined for disappointment. Like the protagonist, the movie needs time to open up and reveal itself. You first gotta sit down and become acquainted. Slowly, you will get an idea of who Gabriel is, and how you see him has a lot to do with who you are yourself. The story is told with intelligence and confidence. Confidence in the viewer, as well. It leaves a lot of generous room for the audience, and I can’t imagine anyone who can’t see a little bit of themselves in this character or any of the others involved. I certainly connected to it on a very personal level, and now I feel we’re kinda pals, Gabriel and I. And isn’t that the most beautiful experience one can have at the movies? When you feel like you’ve made a new friend?
I know I know, the poster looks like a big fat indie cliche. Sensitive boy in bathtub, counting how long he can stay underwater. Most likely with Elliott Smith playing in the background, right? But this is not that. At least I didn’t see it that way. Director Lou Howe elegantly avoids getting caught in the usual traps of movies of this kind. And how refreshing to see a film about someone who’s dealing with not-so-easy emotions that doesn’t come across like a commercial for the pharmaceutical industry.
Rory Culkin delivers an Oscar worthy performance. Not that the Academy will notice. But I wish so very much for him to be seen. If he wants to be seen, of course. Maybe not this year or next, but I am convinced that he will leave his mark. Anyways. See this. See it with all the eyes and ears and hearts you got. ‘cause Gabriel deserves it.
★★★½ review by Mike D'Angelo on Letterboxd
A.V. Club review. Might be the best-acted film I've seen this year, across the board. Just wish it had any kind of ending.
★★★★ review by Kurdt on Letterboxd
There’s a great moment in this film where Gabriel—a young twentysomething with an unnamed mental illness that’s implied to have attempted suicide in the past—comes down from having a shower, minutes after freaking out on the rest of his family, where you could practically see his brain unravelling and him mentally scrambling to reel it all in before everything messily untangles. In this moment, he’s freshly clean, he’s coherent and calm, and everything is fine, and the saddest thing is you can practically feel the relief of everyone else in the room. Everyone’s got a huge smile on their face, they’re patting him on the back, and it’s this brief moment of lucidity where you can almost literally feel the whole room willing Gabe to be good, the weight temporarily off their shoulders is so much easier to bare then what it was just minutes ago. It’s sad because these moments seem to be the exception, not the norm, and it’s worse that Gabe is able to access this somewhat separate persona where he’s ‘normal’ once in a while, and give them a brief tease at himself with a healthy brain. This was probably the moment of the film I found that saddest because it’s like an alternate reality of what could have been, and the rest of the film is poor Gabe willing himself to try and do this one thing that he tells himself, if he completes it, everything will be fine. You can probably figure out whether that turns out to be true or not.
- See all reviews