“Cuck” from Rob Lambert is a provocative and timely examination of social media and its influence on our interaction with one another. Zachary Ray Sherman gives a tour-de-force performance. “Cuck” is Recommended.
As we get further on to the internet as a society, with the myriad levels of anonymity built into it, we move further and further away from the intrinsic touch of humanity; we find that we can say what we want on the internet without consequences.
Rob Lambert’s riveting feature directorial debut, “Cuck,” is an exceptionally timely dissection into the use of social media as a delusional bullhorn and the direct implications it has on our society.
Ronnie (Zachary Ray Sherman) is of an age where he should be gainfully employed and possibly in a relationship. Instead, Ronnie whose father was in the military and was killed at some point, lives with his devoutly Christian mother (Sally Kirkland) and suffers from a form of PTSD, making him socially awkward.
The script, co-written by Lambert and Joe Varkle, uses Ronnie’s insecurities as the linchpin of the story. This allows us to experience Ronnie’s world, his reactions to the situations he encounters and his own frustrations. Lambert tells Ronnie’s story through a first-person exposition; we can see and feel his frustrations and we feel empathy for his struggle. This is evident when his mother calls his probation officer (Patrick Malone) and neither his mom nor the officer will listen to him; he’s a reckless probate.
As forceful as Lambert’s direction is, there are subtleties that give Ronnie’s world more context; pay particular attention to how his mother interacts with the probation officer, even Ronnie himself further along in the film as the values and moralities of those Ronnie will listen to, make an impression.
Ronnie’s insecurities take hold in an online Alt-Right forum, a squawk box or an echo chamber for his thoughts. Those thoughts give him a boldness. He holds on to a belief in the superiority of men over women, white men over other creeds and nationalities and patriotism in America, almost bordering on jingoism. His reaction to these situations is usually uncontrolled rage.
Some of Ronnie’s insecurities can be traced back to not having a father, something Lambert explores in detail, filling the void with several father-figures, including a shop keeper, Abbas (David Diaan) who eventually employs Ronnie. Larry played by Hugo Armstrong is more of a central father figure to Ronnie, throwing out ideas that Ronnie can’t fully comprehend.
Ronnie eventually finds an outlet for his frustrations as he begins a series of videos for a patriotic website, generating the attention of Chance Dalmain (Travis Hammer). Initially, Ronnie finds resistance in his thoughts, but he persists in finding a new voice. I found a respect for him as he channeled his energy, even if it trended in a very dangerous direction, he found like-minded people who shared his own delusions.
Larry encourages Ronnie’s desires, such as serving in the Army and sexual relationships. Ronnie tries to satisfy this frustration online unsuccessfully until he runs into Candy (Monique Parent).
Fueled by his delusions, Ronnie asks Larry how someone knows if a woman is interested in them without scaring them off. Larry speaks of having confidence in oneself, that women like that. He also reminds Ronnie that getting things straight in his head is priority number one. Larry jokes about the result, which Lambert ties back in to Candy.
There was something confidently funny when, after Ronnie had sex for the first time, it started raining; a reference to not only Ronnie’s situation, but to the title of the film as well – we’re all humiliated, degraded and demeaned at some point, not just sexually. In Ronnie’s case though, those feelings are amplified by those he trusts.
Interestingly, all of Ronnie’s influences are single, except for Candy and her husband, Bill (Timothy Murphy); they are the pinnacle of Ronnie’s experiences throughout the story, but they are also his predictably tragic downfall.
Throughout Ronnie’s story, there are no moments of humility, the delusions cloud his view of the world, a credit to Sherman’s tour-de-force performance. He is relentless and though I found many of the film’s themes to be repugnant, I am thankful for “Cuck.” In this world of anonymity, the film opens up the conversation regarding the direction of the world around us.
“Cuck” is a tough and rewarding watch, a credit to Rob Lambert’s nuanced direction and Zachary Ray Sherman’s touching performance.
Directed by: Rob Lambert
Written by: Rob Lambert and Joe Varkle
Starring: Zachary Ray Sherman, Sally Kirkland, Monique Parent, Patrick Malone, David Diaan, Travis Hammer, Hugo Armstrong
NR, 115 minutes, A Gravitas Ventures/Rimrock Pictures Release