On the surface, there does not appear to be any identifiable motivations and/or clear reasoning as to why a film such as Fabián Velasco and Miloš Mitrovič’s Tapeworm exists but it sure does. Granted, a film does not need a legitimate reason to exist nor does it have to possess an understandable intention but it probably should. It definitely helps matters. It would definitely help Tapeworm which, as it stands, is nothing but a string of loosely-connected vignettes of humdrum misery in Winnipeg.
The film alternates between four separate storylines that intersect occasionally. There’s an unhealthy, miserable man that treats his wife poorly; a couple that likes to smoke weed and have sex on a discarded mattress found alongside a creek; a woman that struggles through her comedy routines while accumulating zero laughs; a mother and her full-grown, do-nothing son that has her at the end of her rope. They all do little to nothing of interest in their lives, simply exhibiting the behaviors over and over again with the slightest of variations as the bulk of the runtime is home to a handful of characters moping around. Each sequence seems to be an experiment in overwhelming despondency and abject aimlessness.
Lives such as the ones on display in Tapeworm exist in some form or another in reality but surely not in such a way that sees all nuance diminished to an emotional comatose state. To make matters worse, the characters residing in these exaggerated storylines have to do so without the benefit of real personalities. Each individual seems to have one defining aspect to themselves that is presented continuously as if each presentation is a fresh and new development. The actors unfortunately trapped in these situations cannot be faulted as they appear to be delivering what is asked of them which, again, is not much.
It all has the feel of miserablism for the sake of miserablism. Not only the narrative itself but for all those involved from the actors to the audience. It’s competent filmmaking in terms of the technical aspects of the production but those are in the service of a vacant, desolate patch of imagination. There is no empathy for these characters and as such, there is no sympathy to be had given that these individuals come nowhere close to resembling real, actual people. On the positive side, at least none of their trials and tribulations appear to be played for laughs.
Honestly, the only takeaway seems to be that the city of Winnipeg is the embodiment of dreariness. Although, even that distinction is produced via the full and lifeless creations that inhabit this representation of Winnipeg. In presenting Winnipeg as a place that has nothing to offer along with characters that have little to look forward to, Tapeworm itself is unable to escape the same fate that the filmmakers have manufactured.