Three interconnected stories about love and obsession, each involving an extraordinary coincidence, this is director and writer Mark Schwab’s Exteriors.
Exteriors is a film consisting of three stories, each one concerning people who are drawn to each other for their shared love of gamesmanship. Some characters are in love, while others think they are, but they are all skilled at deception. They all, to some extent, use their wit and charm to play at relationships that are more about power and control than any thoughts of love and sex. While they may not be honest with each other, they are all honest about their desire for physical intimacy.
The film is a sequel to director Mark Schwab’s previous film Brotherly Lies, which was a well-made LGBT+ drama set against the backdrop of an LA party that saw a group of friends get together and two estranged brothers trying to escape the lies surrounding their tragic past. Much like Schwab’s previous film, Exteriors explores the dark side of human nature, and it shows how even the most intelligent and articulate people can be seduced by their own desires.
The first story, “Wyatt”, follows the character of Shane from Brotherly Lies, played by Jacob Betts, who is now in a love triangle with his best friends Wyatt and Logan. Wyatt is the first to realize that he is in love with Shane, and must choose between his friendship with Logan and his own feelings for Shane. Shane, on the other hand, is struggling with his own feelings of guilt and uncertainty. He knows that he loves both of them, but he doesn’t know who to choose. The story explores the complexities of love, friendship, and betrayal, containing some lovely imagery with external shots that are beautiful to look at. As two friends walk and talk, the camera follows them, its movements slow and deliberate, making us feel part of the conversation. The standout aspect of “Wyatt” is the brilliant performance of Christian Gabriel as the title character. He is catty, selfish, and deceitful, managing to manipulate the audience’s emotions and even gaining some of our sympathy despite the bitterness that seems to leap off the screen. Gabriel is an enthralling presence throughout.
The second chapter of Exteriors is titled “Jason”, and it explores the pasts of two characters and how memory can be both empowering and unreliable. Jason, a pool cleaner, is called out to service a pool. While he is working, Kenny, a man who Jason had a romantic encounter with years earlier, arrives unexpectedly. Kenny remembers the encounter differently than Jason does, and both men must navigate their feelings as they explore this reunion and what it means to them. Shot using a wider lens, director Schwab uses this chapter to showcase his location and we get to see his world-building in action. His cast during this second installment all have great chemistry together, and this all helps “Jason” become a surprisingly moving piece of work.
The third chapter of Exteriors, “Dr Lesh” is a much more ambitious production. It also looks at the much darker psychological subject matter, dealing with a doctor who becomes obsessed with his patient.
Of the three stories, I enjoyed “Wyatt” the most, thanks to Gabriel’s strong performance, but each story has its own merits. Schwab’s direction is taut throughout, and along with his editing work, he manages to give each story a different feel and look. What is interesting about Exteriors, and Schwab’s script in particular, is that the characters in the film are all ultimately self-destructive and alone. They don’t seem to understand each other or themselves. They know how to go through the motions of social interaction, but they are unable to form genuine connections with other people. This makes the film seem particularly relevant to our current, insincere times and Schwab a definite name to keep an eye on.