Written and directed by Denis Theriault, I Am Syd Stone is a coming-of-age (of sorts) mini-series that follows the emotional journey of Syd Stone (Travis Nelson), an celebrity heartthrob who is constantly stopped by fans who want take a selfie with their idol. Though he exudes masculinity, Syd is at war within himself as he struggles with his sexuality. When his career slows down, he finds himself in a small town, shooting a B-movie that he despises. Sitting at the hotel bar, he meets Matt (Benjamin Charles Johnson), a lawyer who’s in town for a trial and the two men are instantly attracted to one another. As the two men begin a passionate affair, the life that Syd has built for himself is threatened to crumble in the wake of his personal revelations.
Anchored by strong performances from leads Travis Nelson and Benjamin Charles Johnson, Syd Stone is a beautiful character portrait of a man lost within himself. Theriault’s decision to let the camera repeatedly sit on Nelson’s face as he wrestles internally is both uncomfortable and fascinating to watch. Though he says nothing, Nelson’s work here says volumes. For the most part, the film’s pacing operates on a slow burn and even feels like a one-act play. (In fact, the first 5 episodes are so well scripted that, admittedly, the finale feels somewhat jarring. Though well-done in its own right, it simply can’t match the intensity of the rest of the piece by expanding the world so rapidly.)
Passionate and intense, I Am Syd Stone is an incredible picture of a man who needs to decide (or admit) to himself who he intends to be. Theriault’s work here is simple yet effective and showcases the challenges of accepting one’s self in the present, regardless of the damage that has been done in the past.
I am Syd Stone is currently streaming at Inside Out 2020.