Relish offers a contemporary take on The Breakfast Club with poignant commentary while even factoring in today’s standards for inclusion.
After flipping back 48 hours, we meet the five teenagers before a group therapy session at the Deacon Treatment Facility. This isn’t going to be a film where they’re going to stay in one room all day. Instead, Kai (Tyler DiChiara) is plotting their escape. The other five include social media influencer Aspen (Hana Hayes), opiod addict Levi (Mateus Ward), bipolar disorder-diagnosed Theo (Rio Mangini), and the alien-obsessed Sawyer (Chelsea Zhang). Everyone has their own quirks much in the same way that they did in The Breakfast Club.
The film marks the feature debut of trans actor Tyler DiChiara. He absolutely crushes the role in his first feature. As far as the character goes, one can’t help but feel sorry for him. I mean this in terms of feeling his pain whenever Deacon director Rich Stratton (James Morrison) deadnames or misgenders him. The struggles that I see in Kai are similar to what I see in other members of the transgender community. Then there’s the time when Aspen can’t return the same feelings solely because Kai isn’t a cisgender male. Sure, Aspen goes running straight to Levi but she has her own reasons let alone the insecurities. There’s also a focus on Aspen as she is trying to take figure out her voice.
One has to think that John Hughes would be proud of Justin Ward’s efforts. By no means is Relish a remake or a reboot of the classic Hughes film. What the film does, however, is touch upon things that Hughes couldn’t even touch in the 1980s. The fact that a transgender teen is leading this band of outcasts is honestly unheard of. This is one of the last films that I watched before starting to prep for Toronto. Let’s just say that I’m glad I did so.
Justin Ward is able to beautifully draw upon the classic Hughes themes. He does so in a way that makes the film both modern and contemporary. Taking what we know about The Breakfast Club, Ward goes even further in a somewhat darker area while also exploring the concept of freedom. What does it mean to be free and what are we trying to free ourselves from?
Most impressively, this film was shot in nine days! I would have never guessed this upon watching the film. For a film with an ultra-low budget, the production values definitely look higher.
While I don’t know if Relish will be able to stand the test of time in the same way as the Hughes classic, I also don’t see it suffering from similar criticism upon being watched some thirty years later. Times have changed, of course. This is why I especially like the fact that one of the five teens is a transgender teen. Because of the casting, Relish is able to drive home its message in a stronger way.
DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER: Justin Ward
CAST: Hana Hayes, Mateus Ward, Rio Mangini, Chelsea Zhang, Matthew Nardozzi, with James Morrison and Angel Parker, and introducing Tyler DiChiara