Luke and Tyler are roommates, sharing a small apartment together. One night just as Luke is headed out for a camping trip for the weekend, Tyler is trying to psych himself up to say something important.
But when the conversation takes an unexpected turn, Luke starts talking about his new girlfriend… whose name is also Tyler and who is also a substitute teacher like him as well. And from there, things proceed to get even more awkward.
Writer/co-director and lead actor Devon Diffenderfer’s witty, surprisingly rich comedy — also co-directed by Ari Itkin — appears on the surface to be a modest two-hander of two people having a conversation of some degree of emotional importance, at least for one of its characters. It has a studied, ordinary look and feel, with editing and camerawork driven by the characters and their emotion. But its exceedingly clever writing and performances do a brilliant job of setting up and then confounding narrative expectations, creating a dizzying farcical back-and-forth that explores the queer subtext of male friendships and the slippery, elusive nature of both truth and desire.
With perfectly quirky specificity, it immediately sets up Luke’s romantic aspirations just before he enters the scene. From there, Luke and Tyler embark on a seemingly innocuous conversation. Yet as the talk proceeds, the unspoken subtext gets weightier and weightier, as each character dances around their truth and suspicions.
Eventually the subtext, of course, becomes to the surface in a confrontation — one that continues to tease at the fraught relationship between Luke and Tyler. Actors Diffenderfer, who plays Luke, and Ryan Pater play off one another well, their reactions and aggressions played for both genuine emotion and comic timing.
Each beat between them forms an increasingly complicated dance, which plays out in plenty of false starts and fake stops. The back-and-forth of what seems to be true and what is delusion constantly shifts, and just when viewers think the story is going one way, it deftly zigzags in an unexpected direction — one that ends with a perfectly played zing that spins the whole story yet again in another dimension.
Nimble in execution and awkwardly funny, “Love You Tyler” is essentially about misreading situations and intentions, and its shifts in story and character are handled with a sure-handed, lightness of touch that’s always engaging. But don’t mistake its quicksilver agility for a lack of sophistication — the film surprisingly rewards multiple viewings, especially when the “truth” is revealed.
Like the often complicated truth when it comes to real-life love and romance, revealing the real intentions behind confounding, sometimes bewildering behavior doesn’t always make things clear — but adds more confusion, and hilarity, to already murky matters of the heart, and ponders just how deeply we can disguise our desires from ourselves.