1:54 is a really bad movie

Protonull · February 16, 2023

Tim is a grade 11 student dealing with loss of his mother several years ago and his own sexuality at 16 going on 17. He was a star runner as a 12 year old with his mother as his coach. With his mother’s death he gave up running and him and his friend are chemistry nerds who are bullied and harassed by the jocks at school. Tim eventually returns to running and expands his group of friends. His main competitor on the track, Jeff, continues his harassment and resorts to blackmail to hurt Tim’s performance on the track with disastrous results.

That summary really doesn’t do justice to the kind of awful that’s shown in this movie. It started off great though, it had such great potential, but it went so off the rails so quickly.

CONTENT WARNING: Suicide, Grief, Bombing.

It starts off with these two kids, Tim and Francis, they’re cutely geeky and seem to be best friends. They volunteer to do a demonstration in their chemistry class, something they practice together at their sort of hide out. When it gets dark and they’re both sitting by a fire and having one of those awkward conversations that I’m sure all gay people are familiar with where Francis is unsure if Tim is gay too so he’s subtly trying to allude to how they’re both out together, late, on their own, etc, and how that maybe means something. Tim later has one of those moments where he goes to kiss Francis but in that slow “I want to, but I don’t know if I should” way, and eventually “I shouldn’t” wins out. Extremely relatable.

After the demonstration flops, Francis gets food thrown at him by the awful kids who think bullying is funny and “just a joke.” Those bullies call Francis a homophobic slur and, in a moment of frustration, he admits to it. The bullies then turn on Tim, slurring him too, so Tim publicly rejects Francis, even later assaulting him. After two more instances of bullying and Tim being unable to get in contact with Francis, Tim goes looking for him and finds him at the hide out and… well… poised to kill himself. Tim frantically tries to stop him but… after saying “I love you”, he jumps.

As you can imagine, this is extremely emotionally sensitive.. there are countless real tragedies just like this: suicide is the second leading cause of death for LGBT+ youth. It’s only 30 minutes into the movie though, so with over an hour left, I was ready to see how Tim handles the guilt and grief over the loss of his best friend and potential boyfriend. I was ready to watch Tim’s road to recovery, to see him remember Francis and move on, etc… but oh boy, it’s all about to fall off a cliff.

So it turns out that Tim is an excellent runner and that Francis’ main bully is training for the 800 metre national competitions, so Tim sees this as an opportunity to unseat the bully of his chance at the nationals in what seems to be a kind of “You took Francis’ future, I’m going to take yours” way. Tim becomes obsessed with running and, with still unresolved trauma, isn’t handling things well.

Tim later drunkenly hallucinates a sexual encounter with Francis at a party (he’s actually just masturbating) which is seen and recorded by the bully and used as blackmail to stop Tim winning the race… which works. The bully then releases the video anyway and Tim gets in a car crash. Then after reading some of the horrible comments left of the video, Tim resolves himself to… sigh… make a bomb and blow up a dance floor full of people, presumably everyone in his school year. This is stopped only because Tim’s friend, a girl he used as an alibi, enters the party looking for him, so he sounds the alarm, evacuates everyone, and dies by his own explosive.

It goes without saying that this movie is trying to win gold at the “Bury your Gays” Olympics. But I’d like to also mention that, with only one exception, Francis’ name is never mentioned past the 33-minute mark. The exception is when Tim says “I know I fucked up, Francis.” before proceeding to make out with his hallucination. Not once does Tim say he’s running for Francis; not once does he talk about what he had or almost had with Francis to anyone; not once does anyone question why Tim is so obsessed with running all of a sudden; etc. And even in Tim’s bomber-manifesto video, he doesn’t mention Francis: it’s all just about Tim. You could, quite honestly, start the film at 42:24 and nothing would be lost, story wise.

This film just becomes so uncomfortable to watch, and certainly not in an “uncomfortable truths” way, but a “this feels like a mean-spirited caricature” kind of way. The story really should’ve stopped at the 36-minute mark exactly. After that it’s just pure garbage that not only erases everything from the first third of the movie, but undermines it completely.