Ewan Gleadow

Movie Review: DTF

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Copyright: Lionsgate

After losing his wife, the friend of filmmaker Al Bailey documents the 18 months “Christian” spends looking for a new relationship on dating app Tinder. Taking its title from the acronym that appears frequently on the app, DTF follows the painstakingly lengthy efforts one man takes to try and find love. It devolves rather rapidly into a story of addiction, grief and loss, but Bailey’s directorial debut here throws him in at the deep end, straining the ethical relationship between two friends.  

Protecting the identity of the subject matter seems to be right at the core of the documentary. Masking his voice, pixelating his face, and only nine minutes into the film you can see why that is. The twists and turns DTF has is like lifting the lid of Pandora’s Box, the disgusting underbelly of what should be clean, consistent dating apps is torn through with an intimate horror show. A sex-crazed airline pilot who seems to be in a fluctuating state of grief for the loss of his soulmate and a desire to move on without thinking about the consequences of his actions. Throwing caution to the wind, but not intentionally, it’s a rather weird experience to follow Christian around. Considering the relationship between the two, it’s hard to appeal to either side. Christian’s desire to coax anyone into a wild fling, but Al’s inability to follow through with the interest of the documentary, and to follow them, makes for a horrible fallout. You can’t help but feel bad for Al, his debut feature suddenly lurches from finding love on Tinder to dealing with sex addiction.  

It’s a rather awkward documentary most of the time. Christian clearly feels rather uncomfortable and the fly-on-the-wall perspective that is initially taken is shattered entirely. Shoving the camera into the face of just about anyone Christian comes into contact with, the naturalness and nature of the documentary. Throwing whichever style of journalism or documentary manner Al Bailey can think of, we receive interviews, fly-on-the-wall, and a whole cavalcade of differing themes. It feels rather aimless though, when Christian is asked how he feels after dates he refuses to comment, or just acts oddly hostile to someone that’s meant to be his friend. But this attitude builds to something the documentary shouldn’t have been able to capture. It’s startling to witness, and on the surface, it feels like Christian is an awful person, but it’s clear that it’s the grief talking, rather than his actual personality.  

Similar tones to that of Never Be Done: The Richard Glen Lett story, we’re dealing not with addiction, but grief. The two feels rather similar, and the comparisons between the two are great. Christian, much like the titular subject of Never Be Done, is not a nasty or demeaning person. But the grief and its effect on Christian has turned him into something far, far away from his natural state. However, underneath all that I wonder if he does have a very outdated, poor attitude to both hygiene and general respect for the people he meets, his friends, and the need to grow and accept responsibility. It spirals too far though, and as much as addiction changes a person; the documentary fires up a final twenty minutes of inexcusable horror. 

This was far from the documentary I had expected. Whilst I’d expected horrid subjects who had no desire for anything optimistic or positive, DTF is surprisingly mature about what it would like to say of how dating apps work. The ravens begin to encroach, circling their prey, it breaks down dating apps as a rather primitive, Neanderthal-like experience, which isn’t far from the truth, but that focus is soon lost in the way of disgusting, immoral behaviour from its subject. If the film is aiming to open up a discussion about how people present themselves on dating apps compared to how they truly are, then it’s a great success. Using dating and interaction with new people and venturing through exciting new terrains to deal with grief isn’t healthy, but the desperation found within this documentary shows that he’s not as much at fault as an audience member may initially think.