“Ham on Rye” (2019, Tyler Taormina)
In 2019, Tyler Taormina released his first full-length independent film, “Ham on Rye”. Taormina made “Ham on Rye” surreal because he wanted to show the town’s rites of passage on how high school graduates celebrate their last night before going away to college versus when graduates would stay local for going to college. The distinctions of the characters were very clear of who left the town and who stayed back where people were either partying at the deli in town or just walking around the streets outside of the deli. Other than that clear distinction, Taormina used special effects and vague plot points for the second half of the movie of the graduates that ended up not moving on with the others.
At the start of the film, there were non-descriptive groups walking around the streets in the same town as the deli. They were all dressed up for an event like a dance, a prom or a bar mitzvah. Several of the people within the groups were nervous what was going to happen next because this is a big moment in their lives. In those scenes, effective montages and camera angles were used to build anticipation for the viewers. About 45 minutes into the film, all of the various groups came into the deli where there was a dance party where there was no explanation what the purpose of the party was for. Later on, viewers realized that the celebration was likely the last night before everyone left for college. At that party, there were several couples bonded together. As couples, following the dance party, everyone that attended walked off into an open field and then vanished. It was unclear why they needed to be bonded together before going off into the horizon.
Upon the graduates’ disappearance, only two remained, a girl and a boy. Additionally, there were some people in their mid 20s and all of the parents of the graduates stayed back. Following those descriptive shots, there was a social gathering at a bonfire where everyone was so unhappy around the bonfire, which symbolized that the characters had a miserable post high school life. Finally, a girl named Haley was trying to contact her friends that left for college, but nobody answered her calls. After her failing to hear back, she walked very miserably to a park where she observed children playing foreshadowing the next generation of life.
The obscure and vague story that Taormina created, left viewers to speculate why and what caused the characters to end up in the position they ended up in after the party. It’s unclear whether they can come back, if they can communicate with other graduates, why so many adults are in the town and why graduates needed to be paired up before leaving for college. There also was a lack of dialogue between characters indicating any particular pieces of the rite of passage. Overall, this film was also entertaining because it showed the rite of passage in an unusual perspective.