The Line – Tribeca 2023

A still from The Line. Photo credit: Stefan Weinberger.

The Line is the one movie that fraternity and sorority houses will probably not want anyone to watch but it’s a conversation starter.

It’s not uncommon for a film to be a conversation starter and Ethan Berger does exactly this with his feature narrative debut. To say that frat houses will not want this film out there is not an understatement. And yet, it is impossible to discuss this film without touching on the history of fraternity hazing. Of the 200+ fraternity hazing deaths in the United States, there were 40 recorded during 2007-2017. Most of them are because of alcohol but it does not change the fact that these deaths were preventable. The fact that there’s been at least one death per year since 1969 is heartbreaking. In recent years, both 2022-2023 are without a hazing-related death. It might come as good news but the history is just infuriating. To think that I wanted to join a frat once upon a time…

There’s something about tradition and blindly adhering to it. How much blind adherence is too much blind adherence? All one needs to do, really, is just visit college campus, go to frat row, and see it on display. Even though the college in this film is fictional, it’s no different than reality. All you have to do is look at how many hazing deaths there are and whether or not anyone ever deals with the repercussions.

Ethan Berger and Alex Russek’s screenplay tells the film through Tom Backster’s (Alex Wolff) POV. When we meet him, he’s one of the brothers at Kappa Nu Alpha. With the social status and alumni connections, joining a frat–in theory–feels like the right thing to do. But even inside the house and pledging their allegiance, there’s a question of what it truly means to be loyal. What happens is that Tom meets Annabelle Blossom (Halle Bailey) in class  and before he knows it, his entire life is changed. There’s knowing one’s identity and their belonging in frat culture before this moment and after. It doesn’t help that Tom’s best friend, Mitch Miller (Bo Mitchell), leading pledges–especially Gettys O’Brien (Austin Abrams) into danger through hazing. The antics are enough to suspend any frat house.

Gettys and Mitch clearly do not see eye to eye. Tom is no longer able to blindly look on as everything transpires. It wouldn’t look well for his future, let alone his conscience, if he were to just stand by and do nothing. This is the type of film that will make the audiences ask questions. It’s also easy to think of it as a horror film. I mean, what really goes on behind the scenes?!? This isn’t to say that all frats are bad but reforms are necessary when hazing is dangerous and leads to death.

I wanted to join a frat in college and though I got rejected, I stay in touch a number of college friends to this date. Looking back, it certainly has an impact on one’s social life. My social life during my freshman year was spent at Hillel and doing improv with Barbeque Kitten (yes, that was the name at Bradley University). This is in addition to a work study in Sports Information. Every now and then, I would check out the latest third-run movie showing on campus or go watch a comedian (Daniel Tosh, Kevin Hart, etc.) perform at the Michel Student Center. After transferring, a few of us tried starting up a ZBT chapter on campus. These efforts went nowhere. The social life and alumni connections of it all are important and it’s why people rush but dangerous hazing is not necessary.

The Line is a conversation starter and every college freshman should watch this film before thinking about rushing a fraternity. Wolff and Abrams turn in solid performances in a film that is not an easy watch by any means. I cannot stress the fact that this is a film that everyone needs to watch. You’ll never look at frats in the same way ever again.

DIRECTOR: Ethan Berger
SCREENWRITERS: Ethan Berger and Alex Russek
CAST: Alex Wolff, Lewis Pullman, Halle Bailey, Austin Abrams, Bo Mitchell, Angus Cloud, Graham Patrick Martin, Will Ropp, Denise Richards, with Cheri Oteri, Scoot McNairy, and John Malkovich

The Line held its world premiere during the 2023 Tribeca Festival in the Spotlight Narrative section. Grade: 4/5

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.