First, let me say that We All Think We’re Special is a tough viewing experience. Watching a character undergo a forced detox and writhe on the floor in pain is grim, to say the least. That said, the film’s bleakness doesn’t mean it’s not worth a watch.
Directed by Kirby Voss, the film stars Jared Bankens as alcoholic Charlie and William McGovern as Ed, a gay man who’s also a “Jesus freak,” to quote Charlie. After a break-up, Ed stays with his bestie to get over his ex. A night of excessive drinking ensues, and the next morning, when Ed wants to sober up, Charlie forces him to drink again. This is a guy who pours vodka in a blender and mixes it with orange juice for breakfast. He has liquor bottles stored in every nook and cranny of the house.
To complicate matters, Charlie’s mother died and didn’t leave him the house. Because it’s on the market, he has to move. However, he refuses to do so and instead lives in filth. The setting here is just as unnerving as the portrayal of addiction. You can almost smell the stench of empty liquor bottles, old pizza, and grimy countertops. It looks like the worst frat house imaginable during the final weekend of a semester. Instead of cleaning, Charlie drinks and plays video games. When he leaves breakfast on the stove for too long and nearly burns the place down, he doesn’t care.
Realizing Charlie needs help, Ed imposes a forced detox upon him. What unfolds after is sheer psychological terror. Watching Charlie sweat, pace the house, verbally assault his best friend, and search desperately for a drop of booze is horrifying. Bankens and McGovern are largely the only two actors featured, and they both give strong performances, Bankens especially. The friendship is believable and emotional.
Voss employs some clever camera tricks to enhance the tension, namely a split-screen to highlight the psychological battle waged between friends. Charlie, a community college math professor, acts like the smartest guy in the room. This is juxtaposed with Ed’s more tempered demeanor. Yet, he’s still determined to see his friend sober, and as the narrative progresses, Charlie’s behavior grows more and more erratic. You suspect his violence could extend beyond the verbal at any moment, as his state deteriorates.
A few flashbacks flesh out Charlie’s backstory, including why he became an alcoholic, and why his friendship with Ed is so complicated. Often, these flashbacks are too quick and at times, confusing. More specifically, there is one important narrative detail about an incident that transpired between Ed and Charlie when they were teens. Charlie seems haunted by it, but unfortunately, it’s never given enough time to breathe. That’s the film’s only real flaw.
We All Think We’re Special has two strong lead performances and a horrifying depiction of self-destruction and alcoholism. The film never strays from its bleak tone, but that shouldn’t be a reason not to watch. Voss has crafted a stellar single-location film with a portrayal of addiction that is booze-soaked, raw, and jolting.
8 Out of 10 Empty Bottles