The LGBTQIA+ community is arguably at the forefront of pushing creative boundaries. Shaped by a cast that is largely transgender, Death and Bowling is no exception—choosing to dance to a drum that is by no means linear. While sometimes overly convoluted in its narrative structure, its cinematic stray into an ethereal dreamland remains wholly captivating.
Taken under the wing of a local lesbian bowling club known as the Lavender League, struggling actor X (Will Krisanda) struggles to figure out what comes next. After the sudden death of beloved bowling captain Susan (Faith Byran), a mysterious stranger appears at her funeral. As X grows closer to Alex (Tracy Kowalski), their dreamlike connection questions what it truly means to be seen.
Kitsch and high-octane in its visual appearance, Death and Bowling is a filmic showstopper. Each frame is deliciously rich in colour, texture and movement, keeping the eye occupied with constantly changing aesthetics. The best of the in-your-face 80s meets the beauty school dropout lucidness of the 50s, culminating in a cinematic treat that’s hard to tear away from. Its cast gives just as much pleasure as its setting—an array of physical representation that’s scarcely seen in any fictitious depiction of reality. Every fleeting character is endearing and commands attention, hiding a lifetime of pain and strife under a garish lavender uniform.
Conceptually grabbing attention from the start, Death and Bowling is not shy in fulfilling its wants. Shifting from colour to black and white with gay abandon, it’s a film that really embraces its homemade edges. Hard cuts and abrupt changes in dialogue ask questions that cinema possibly cannot answer, its cast pleading for answers with their staring eyes invading the screen. Every physical detail is taken into account, lending to its deepened thematic exploration of transition in all forms.
Most of the time, it’s difficult to understand what’s actually going on. While Lyle Kash’s directorial choices are incredibly compelling visually, they leave little in the way of tangible plotline. X resonates in their inability to figure out what they need to, yet moves through the narrative without noticeable change or eventual end goals. There’s a savouring of every second, balancing abstract chaos with the slow process of learning. Even so, its lack of speed combined with a looming vagueness often works against it.
Death and Bowling is a cinematic risk throughout its 63 minute runtime, and only pays off to a certain degree. Its visual portrayal of hitting the gutter is nothing short of remarkable, while its unpacking of grief, growth and transition are unsteady when finding their feet. While not art for arts sake, Death and Bowling is possibly better viewed as a broader moving image that undoubtedly holds its queer community aloft.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: Lyle Kash
STARS: Will Krisanda, Tracy Kowalski, Faith Bryan