Following up his Cruising-riffing experimental documentary Interior. Leather Bar., Travis Mathews’ narrative drama Discreet again considers the impact of violence and not-so-internalized homophobia on the modern queer identity, as well as the newer wrinkle of the warring forces created by the democratization of the media. A scrubby young man named Alex (Jonny Mars) listens to rabidly homophobic and transphobic right-wing talk radio while driving through the heartland, but he also regularly meets a certain older gentleman for sexytime encounters in the viewing booth of a porn shop — always playing straight porn — while also arranging all-male motel orgies via Craigslist.
He’s also planning his revenge on an elderly invalid named John (Bob Swaffar), who abused Alex as a child. Meanwhile, Alex’s already fraught sense of boundaries lead him from being fan to stalker of Mandy (Atsuko Okatsuka), a YouTuber who makes Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) videos of soothing sounds such as humming or frying bacon. For all the story, Discreet’s 80-minute runtime is never rushed, and an almost eXistenz-level of attention is paid to the simple sounds and textures while Mark De Gli Antoni’s spooky drone score keeps things unsettling. You can rage against what you may perceive as the dying of the light, or you can relax and enjoy the ambiance it creates.