Review: Leon’s Fantasy Cut

Written and directed by lead actors Josh Caras and Jon Valde, two first generation Ukrainian-American brothers each on their own path towards their individual vision of the “American Dream”. Also starring: Ella Rae Peck, Paul Cooper, Jonathan Gordon, John Wollman, Ephraim Birney and Matt Dellapina.

There are two kinds of people who saw Uncut Gems, the ones who thought it was hugely stressful and the ones who fell in love with it, Leon’s Fantasy Cut is the perfect film for the latter. While the story might not be quite as glamorous, it has lot of that same chaotic, frantic style. Visually, it’s always on the move, it matches the fervent energy of its characters. The aesthetic is extremely down to earth, portraying the generally average existence of these two brothers. There’s a hugely pent up air to its atmosphere, perfectly reflecting the characters’ sensibilities in the style of the film.

If you were to take a shot every time someone said ‘bro’ in Leon’s Fantasy Cut, you’d more than likely have alcohol poisoning by the end. Though it’s an entirely apt choice that reflects the personalities of these brothers, their childish nature, stuck in an endless teenagerhood, unable to feel like real adults. It comes with a good dose of awkwardness and tension, it takes a relatively humble story and ramps it up to eleven with aggressiveness and frustration. It will again be one of those films that will either work for you or it won’t but it is surprisingly captivating. You’d imagine that excessive, harsh energy would push you away but in fact it pulls you in because you can’t help but want to know where these two will end up, for better or worse.

The hectic energies of these two brothers emanate brilliantly from the performances of Josh Caras and Jon Valde. It almost makes you exhausted thinking about how much sincere effort is going into the performances while also working behind the camera. Caras creates George in this unbelievably tightly wound package, he’s so quick to react and envy that he’ll end up sabotaging anything good that comes his way. Whereas Valde’s Iggy is the opposite, he’s so lax and enthusiastic that he hasn’t figured out how to settle down. Ella Rae Peck is then interesting in the middle ground, she’s mature, level headed, kind and generous. She creates a bridge between them, able to see the best in both of them.

Leon’s Fantasy Cut is bursting with energy, Josh Caras and Jon Valde have created characters who just never really stop, whether it be out of frustration or excitement. It’s a genuinely intense comedy drama exploring the difficulties in setting a foundation for adult life, building relationships and brotherhood. That energy permeates the entire film, Caras and Valde create a visual style and atmosphere that perfectly match their characters and everything works in a stressful but engaging unity.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯ | 8/10

Reviewed as part of the 2023 NYC Indie Theatre Film Festival

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