Ham on Rye (2019)

Ham on Rye
Director: Tyler Taormina
Writer: Tyler Taormina, Eric Berger
Cast: Haley Bodell, Audrey Boos, Gabriella Herrera, Adam Torres, Luke Darga, Sam Hernandez, Blake Borders, Cole Devine, Timothy Taylor, Gregory Falatek
Seen on: 6.4.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) ableism

Plot:
Haley (Haley Bodell), Gwen (Audrey Boos) and Trish (Gabriella Herrera) are preparing for a ritual in the town’s diner. They, and every other kid their age, are donning the clothes of their grandparents and walk to the diner. Something big is going to happen, something that will change the course of their lives forever. At least, if they are chosen.

Ham on Rye builds on an interesting idea, but lacks a bit of focus and narrative clarity. Still, it’s definitely unusual.

The film poster showing 11 the fists of 11 teens, holding their thumbs in up or down positions.

Ham on Rye moves in a strangely unplaceable time period, feeling like it could be set in the 60s as much as today. I loved how that ties in with the story that revolves around an apparently arcane ritual but one that seems fraught with modern anxieties. And it also fits perfectly with (life in) the suburbs in general that are both something quintessentially 50s/60s, and of course still very present today.

It’s an interesting juxtaposition and probably the most intriguing thing about the film, from the costumes to the general atmosphere, or to the diner where everything takes place. Everything is touched by an “out of this world” mood.

Haley (Haley Bodell), Gwen (Audrey Boos) and Trish (Gabriella Herrera) reading a postcard together, all dressed in white, sitting in the forest.

The film does have a great cast of characters and I was constantly trying to keep up with who was who, which was rather irritating. There are certain characters the film is focused a little more on – Haley and her friends, or Sloan (Cole Devine) – but there is no real protagonist, nobody to guide you through the story. This is not a problem per se, but it does give the film an unfocused feeling that is exacerbated by the fact that it doesn’t really have an ending and gives no real explanations. I think a little more sharpening, a little more tightness here would have done the film good. I particularly would have liked a little more contextualization of one boy’s fate who doesn’t make it to the ritual.

But for a debut feature, Ham on Rye shows quite some promise in its unique take on the slightly oversaturated coming-of-age genre. There’s certainly something to it.

Three girls walking with flashlights. They can just be seen as silhouettes against the sunset.

Summarizing: quaint.

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