How do you explain Choke? This challenging, unconventional arthouse picture feels designed to test what we’ve come to know and expect from the big screen. I like that. I like the audacious attempt to deliver something wholly different but it also comes at the expense of alienating a good portion of the filmgoing audience.
When it comes to acquired tastes – Choke is about as close as you’ll get to that exact definition.
Split across 73 minutes, this feature revolves around the art of (yep, you guessed it) choking. Blurring the line between reality and fantasy, the story centers on three individuals who learn about self-asphyxiation. The first is a 17 year old girl called Jeanie who becomes entangled in 2 separate flings with older guys. The first is with a serial killer called Brandon and later on down the line a cop called Robert.
This is complicated further by some pretty harsh cuts between the parallel storylines; the latter showcasing Robert in a happy marriage with his wife and speaking to a therapist.
These stories eventually spill over into the third act with the inclusion of a cult who teach a specific Zen-like state through asphyxiation. This eventually sees all three of our characters change and evolve across the movie but there’s a lot of ambiguity about exactly what’s going on across this picture.
Those expecting a straight forward watch will almost certainly be out of their depth here. Choke is not a conventional movie and because of that, the narrative sometimes gets lost in the various montages and neat artistic cues that flesh out this film.
The cinematography and general framing is actually really good, with the harsh cuts just before a dramatic element or pumping out uplifting music during unnerving segments works as a wonderful juxtaposing element that helps elevate this movie into something very different and unique.
Given this is an Indie film though, a lot of liberties can be taken with the acting which swings between pretty good and pretty bad. There’s nothing outright disastrous here though and the various montages do work well to disguise some of the basic lines of dialogue that fall flat.
Having said that though, Choke is unlike anything you’re likely to watch this year. Take that statement with a pinch of salt though as it can be taken either as a good or bad point depending on how you look at it.
For some, Choke will be an audacious, risky project that challenges conventional ideas and does a pretty good job at standing out in a saturated market. For others, Choke will feel self-indulgent and unnecessarily contrived for the sake of art.
Most of the time though, Choke feels in danger of strangling its own narrative clarity for the sake of art. If you can go into this one with an open mind and fancy a challenging watch, this is actually not a bad effort but it could have balanced this with a clearer narrative too making this an edgy but flawed effort.