In the last scene of Streamer, on the left hand side above the laptop and beer can, a small black-and-white poster of Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver can be seen; the most famous one where Travis Bickle’s pictured alone, walking towards the camera, a seedy city corner behind him. “On every street in every city in the country, there’s a nobody who dreams of being a somebody” is the catchphrase. This poster could just be a coincidence given that the film’s protagonist is a filmmaker (along with the fact that he shares the director’s first name, this gave me my first real hint that the film is, in a big way, autobiographical) or it could have been purposefully placed there. In either case, its presence is significant. Streamer, like Taxi Driver, is the story of a lonely man driven to an extreme act. In Streamer, we know this from the very first line in the film, said over a black screen. “I’ve realised that I’m alone”.
The first few moments of the film are in fact a video that the protagonist films in an attempt to call out to someone and express his thoughts on being alone. At the end of the clip, he announces that at twenty-eight, he is still a virgin. Following this clip, the camera zooms out and into the real world. Here we are introduced to Jared. The story revolves around Jared and a woman he meets in his building (Tanya Lee) and recognises from a live webcam stream. In his loneliness, he reaches out to her in person, but cannot draw himself away from her online persona.
There is a contrast in the film made following Jared’s first real encounter with the girl. It is an awkward and unsatisfying conversation, confirming his fears that women are repelled by him. He then meets her again on camera. Of course she has no idea who he is. This time, she does what she is paid to do. She gives him what she didn’t in real life. Strangely he closes his eyes and says “don’t stop talking” despite her outfit and seductive attitude. He is more interested in her voice. Upon getting to know her better, he tells her “I just want you to be yourself”. At this point he knows who she is and rejects her webcam persona. Of course, things to do not work out and as he sinks deeper into a state of mutual cordiality with the girl he grows to love, he sinks deeper into self-loathing.
Directors, Jared Bratt and Vincent Pun, make excellent use of close-ups to emphasise the growing sense of unease in their main character. When Jared discovers that she has a boyfriend, the filmmakers focus in on his face as he weeps. It is a portrait of pure and bitter loneliness. In time, she starts to torment him in his imagination, and this is coupled with her boyfriend who begins to torment him in real life. The film unfolds through sharp and intense editing. The final scene (which one is left to imagine) is justified mainly by three events. The first is Jared’s confrontation with the boyfriend, which leaves his face badly bruised. The second, for me, is when he goes to her apartment and the door is closed on his face, and subsequently locked. The third event involves him finally telling her how he feels and her walking away, stressing the fact that nothing could ever happen. When he first appears at her door, she gives him a hug. The viewer really can feel the hug and becomes grateful that it was given.
In Jared’s mind, the question is always “why?” and he never gets a truly clear answer. Just like Taxi Driver’s Travis Bickle, Jared is a victim of his own solitude. He is also a reflection of the tragedy of the inevitable realisation that we are all very much alone. The film’s title, Streamer, is all the more tragic. That is what defines Jared; he is a streamer, a man who watches. Alone in a big faceless city, he is desperate to make real human contact yet utterly unable to do so.
Watch here the film’s trailer: