A challenging but beautiful, thought-provoking, and moving film, “The Way Out” is a tense, thrilling, and character-driven powerhouse.
The Way Out is the latest film from LGBTQ+ filmmaker Barry Jay (The Chosen, Killer Therapy) and stars Jonny Beauchamp (Penny Dreadful, Stonewall) as Alex Romero, a recovering alcoholic who is carrying a lifetime’s worth of Trauma upon his shoulders.
Alex is trying to recover through his hard work with Alcoholics Anonymous, and he has a small but caring support network fighting in his corner.
Part of Alex’s Twelve Step Program includes the act of forgiveness, and he is faced with the impossible task of trying to mend bridges with his abusive father, whom he has not seen in a very long time.
When Alex learns of his father’s passing in the most brutal way possible, he is forced to face old wounds if he is ever to move forward and heal.
Alex’s life becomes even more complicated when a charming but pushy man enters his sphere, and Alex’s patience, resilience, and sobriety are heavily tested.
Jonny Beauchamp shines as Alex.
He assimilates his personality with passion and empathy, giving a career-best performance and ensuring that the audience is on his side despite some of Alex’s more questionable choices in the film.
As viewers, we care deeply for Alex from the beginning. We are thrown into emotional turmoil alongside him as he navigates a blossoming romance that may harbor secrets darker than he is ready to face.
He is handsome and confident, his pushy demeanor commands respect, and he bulldozes his way into Alex’s life, triggering a series of increasingly volatile circumstances.
Mike C. Manning (Slapface, The Call) plays Shane, and his smoldering confidence belies a darker, angrier persona that quickly scratches its way to the surface.
It would be easy for Manning to ham it up in his portrayal of Shane. However, his aggressive body language, coupled with his intense eye contact, showcases an actor comfortable playing uncomfortable; he excels in playing a Patrick Bateman-flavor of Sociopathy.
The supporting cast is also excellent.
Alex’s sponsor Gracie is played by Ashleigh Murray (Riverdale, Valley Girl), who gives a beautifully nuanced turn as an ally to Alex. You believe that she cares, and her older-sibling energy is tangible, as is her frustration in caring for such a reckless person.
Another friend from Alex’s AA community is Veronica, played by Sherri Shepherd (30 Rock, Precious), who oozes tough but motherly energy as she watches over Alex and Gracie.
Shepherd’s ability to casually switch between a caring guardian and a grieving, wounded soul is so fluid, reminding us of what an incredible veteran actor she is.
The Way Out has perfect pacing.
Within the first few minutes of the film, we are given brief glimpses into Alex’s mental state before his erratic life is thrown into upheaval.
The pacing slows during the second act allowing us to live in Alex’s world before briskly picking up speed again as his mental and emotional health begin to spiral.
We experience his burgeoning romance with Shane explicitly from his viewpoint. We are privy to his sexual frustrations, his anxieties around his Queer identity, his shaky sobriety, and his growing fear of Shane and just what he may be physically capable of.
It’s a perturbing yet deeply empathetic space to inhabit as a viewer, and it only enriches our connection to our suffering Protagonist.
Alcoholics Anonymous is the heart of the story: it is the connective tissue that binds all of the characters to one another. It also symbolizes the secret personal battles which every individual is fighting to survive.
The filmmaker obviously holds reverence for the salvation which community and sobriety can bestow upon countless humans, and the script allows a space for the audience to explore and question their own feelings toward this notion.
The Way Out is a tense Thriller/ Drama which leans into Horror elements, and it serves as a brilliant character study. However, it is vengeance which drives the story forward.
The story shares tropes with the likes of Promising Young Woman. But instead of putting a wronged woman in the driver’s seat, it showcases retribution through the eyes of the marginalized gay men of the LGBTQI+ community.
In more mainstream films, Hetero filmmakers often choose to show an idealized representation of same-sex romance. I sincerely appreciated the grounded, realistic portrayal of an LGBTQI+ person who is struggling with unresolved traumas and addictions as they navigate new relationships.
Real life is not like the movies, and many LGBTQI+ people must deal with the isolation which reclaiming their sexual identity and coming out often carries.
The Way Out illustrates this struggle with compassion, understanding, and fierce resilience.
It’s a film that cements Barry Jay as a strong voice in the Horror/ Thriller genre and within the LGBTQI+ filmmaking community.
This film will make you question your personal ethics, and it will force you to face uncomfortable questions about what makes a person good. Are we ever truly bad or are we simply victims of our own tragic circumstances?
The Way Out may share similar tropes with its Vengeance Film and TV cousins such as M.F.A., American Mary, and television’s Dexter. However, the empathy granted to its main LGBTQI+ characters is what sets it apart as a call-to-arms for Queer filmmakers everywhere.
Barry Jay grabs you by the throat and does not let go until the final credits roll.
This film is a harrowing journey that rewards its audience with the very thing its characters are fighting to attain: HOPE.