Felix is 16 years old. He is struggling with the usual uncertainties of adolescence, but there's more he has to deal with: he has had Tourette's syndrome from a young age.
It's hard for Felix to deal with the taunts from people who don't understand he has a condition that's unpredictable and consuming. But it's even harder for him when they have preconceived notions about it, believe he can just stop or is ticing to get attention. But Felix wants people to know what it feels like to suffer from this condition, so he's speaking out.
Directed, shot and edited by filmmaker Mark Waters, this powerful short documentary immerses viewers with poetic, compelling intimacy into a much-discussed yet often misunderstood condition. The film creates a hypnotic portrait of a young teenage boy, using his words and perspective to offer a window into a state that's as much a world as it is a condition.
Tourette's is a neurodevelopmental syndrome characterized by multiple motor and vocal tics preceded often by unwanted urges that the afflicted person often can't control. Yet it's often flattened to someone swearing uncontrollably in popular media. That misunderstanding adds to the pain, isolation and torment that Felix experiences when he suffers from tics.
Felix's state of mind is transmitted in his own words as he talks about his life, and he's eager for people to truly understand what it means to grapple with this difficult condition. His voiceover, coupled with conversations with friends, detail his struggle with Tourette's uncontrollable force, as well as the shame he feels when outsiders taunt or insult him in the belief that he can choose to stop his tics. It's hard enough to when the urge to tic flares up, but it's even more difficult when he's told to shut up and simply can't.
As articulate, sensitive and open as Felix is, much of the film's singular emotive power comes from the arresting images. The visuals are stunning, sculpted with moody shadow and light and framed with an eye for poetic detail. When coupled with an equally thoughtful sound design and past footage of Felix's tics, they collectively evoke the strange, weightless isolation of Felix's world. They also provide an intimate point-of-view of what going through Tourette's syndrome looks like -- and it's much less sensationalistic than most people are led to believe.
Longlisted for a short film BAFTA, "Tictoc" is an unforgettable, riveting and profoundly humane watch. It lingers in viewers' memories well after viewing for several reasons. Felix himself is a sympathetic presence, and his willingness to be vulnerable about something that he struggles with evokes empathy. He's framed within a film that uses the unique power of cinematic craft to create an emotional and psychological experience that feels like its subject's headspace. There's a quietness that can sometimes be lonely or peaceful; there are almost surreal images that capture the fright of being unable to stop the tics from happening. It all culminates in a plea for understanding and compassion, and to be treated in a way that retains humanity and kindness, not mockery and judgment.