All Sorts (SIFF Review): The Surreal World of the Office
Part sports drama, romance, and surreal comedy, All Sorts takes us on a trip through a Kafkaesque office and into an underground folder filing competition.
Living in his car and desperate to find work, the hapless Diego (Eli Vargas) answers a newspaper ad and begins a job as a writer at Datamart, a generic data management company. Datamart is no ordinary office, however—employees frequently disappear, paperclips come to life, and coffee comes right out of the sink. While buying 20 Payday bars to use as currency to get his missing computer, Diego finds a crumpled flyer for a secret folder filing competition held late at night. During these competitions, the athletes have to alphabetically organize a set of folders in a filing cabinet as quickly as they can. It sounds like a banal task, but it’s treated with the same intensity and spectatorship as a professional boxing match.
After Diego sees his coworker June (Greena Park) organize a cabinet with remarkable speed, he persuades her to enter the competition and, despite losing her first match, she’s recognized for her talent and continues to compete in more matches. Quickly becoming the reigning folder filer, she is soon on the road to the final championship match. Meanwhile, Diego and June grow closer to one another through their conversations and a connection begins to blossom between the two, perhaps even a chance at love.
The brainchild of writer and director J. Rick Castañeda, All Sorts is a delirious, genre-bending film with an infectious sense of imagination and originality. It’s hard to compare it to any other similar films—it’s tempting to see this as almost a feel-good version of Fight Club, but it’s so much more than that. At its core, it’s a story about finding love and discovering your truest self—albeit in the unexpected places of a bizarre data company office and an underground folder filing competition. Castañeda found inspiration for All Sorts from his experiences working as a data entry clerk at an office after graduating film school and channeled his creative energy into creating something magical out of the banal experience of office life.
The seemingly anonymous, generic office setting of Datamart serves almost as a character of its own through its surreal fixtures. When Diego first enters his cubicle, he finds the desk completely empty, missing a computer and covered in dust. He opens up a drawer and pulls out an out of order calendar with odd dates and even more odd, nonsensical sayings written on them like “April 31st —Someday is the somethingest day of somebody’s life” and “March 16rd — If the shoe fits, try to calm it down as best you can.” There’s no consistent logic to the office’s strange happenings and no explanation either—everyone just accepts it as it is. From minor annoyances like a photocopier that zooms in too far to a filing cabinet that swallows an employee, the office is imbued with absurdities right out of a Kafka novel if it was set in the late 90s, decked out with clunky Windows computers and grey cubicles.
All Sorts boasts a vibrant ensemble of memorable personalities in its spectacular cast. Eli Vargas carries the film as Diego, giving him a hopeful optimism that shines through his introverted exterior. Most memorable is Luis Deveze as Diego’s animated boss Vasquez, who fires (and rehires) himself, among plenty of absurd mishaps. From the awkward new hire Dagmar (Chelan Shepherd) to the mysterious Ed (Dannul Dailey) to Albert (Clayton Bussey), who is harassed on the phone by a man calling him Brian and claiming that he’s stolen his girlfriend, the office is populated by peculiar personalities who each get their own moments to shine. The film’s weak link unfortunately seems to be Greena Park, who doesn’t quite give June a performance with the conviction she deserves and her moments onscreen don’t often land.
The romantic plot here is easily the least compelling part about the story. It’s a fairly predictable “boy hopelessly falls in love with a girl and changes her life” narrative and doesn’t offer anything particularly fresh and creative—especially surrounded by so many other fresh, original ideas. Instead, it’s the background details and small absurd gags that are the most creative and delightful, and even its constantly running jokes like the nonsensical calendar pages never feel repetitive or tired by the end. Castañeda consistently finds room to delight and entertain throughout, and even if the story doesn’t quite hit the emotional beats it’s aiming for, its unique sense of personality, style, and humor are relentlessly endearing and uplifting.
All Sorts had its US Premiere at the Seattle International Film Festival on April 8-18, and its International Premiere at the Raindance Film Festival on November 6-9, 2021.
Click here to visit All Sorts‘ official site.
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