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DIRECTED BY: Tyler Taormina

FEATURING: Haley Bodell, Cole Devine

PLOT: A large group of teenagers gather together at a restaurant for an assembly to determine their future.

Still from Ham on Rye (2019)

WHY IT MIGHT JOIN THE APOCRYPHA: Ham on Rye is essentially a “coming of age” drama, but the fact that it never reveals what exactly is going on makes this uncomfortable viewing for many, and deliciously odd for those who have a stomach for ambiguity.

COMMENTS: Tyler Taormina kicks off Ham on Rye with a simple visual hook: a cigarette lighter refusing to ignite. For minutes. Until it does, and the tension is released as it lights up a firework. Throughout, there are shots of birthday party attendees waiting for the release. The sun shines brightly, the gifts are stacked high, and we wait, and wait, and wait. While we do get the satisfying resolve of the party pyrotechnics, in the narrative itself there is no resolution to speak of; at least, not for most of the characters—and certainly not for us.

Ham on Rye‘s first half shows us a little bit about everyone as they head to “Monty’s,” a diner which we are informed “recently painted the hand on their sign green.” As the teenagers, all dressed to the nines (in a sartorially inept high school kind of way), enter the restaurant, they each in turn press their hand against the painted hand on the window, and brace themselves for their fate. After a meal, they awkwardly dance along to songs playing on the jukebox. Then, when “Tonight I’m Gonna Fall in Love Again” cues up, they immediately snap to attention and a bizarre ritual begins. Some are lucky, partner up, and then disappear from the film; the rest are left to an ambiguous doom.

Taormina plays the premise straight, and only reveals modest details through snatches of conversations. Something important is going to happen to these young adults: after the tension-lighter introduction there follows an extensive montage of the youths getting dressed and ready, followed by dropped hints about impending risk and efforts by each group to pump themselves up. When a father sees off his boy in a carpool heading to Monty’s, he begins all gratitude and reminiscence, but as the car pulls away, he incongruously shouts after it, “DON’T MESS IT UP! DON’T MESS IT UP!” until he’s out of earshot. What shouldn’t be “messed up”? It is never made entirely clear.

Ham on Rye‘s second half follows the leftovers from the ritual. Night has fallen on the city, and aimless depression has sunken in. One kid, who works at Monty’s, is reassured, as it were, by a friend, “Look, man, it sucks, right? And you can let it suck… or not let it suck. Or something.” We see the world they’re in no differently. Humdrum suburban life. Backyard barbecues. Drinking. Games of Uno. But the lucky ones have disappeared. So are they living a fate worse than death? Taormina refuses to tell us. He discourages us from even trying to understand. At a post-Monty’s party, one of the lads who didn’t get lucky remarks (about something, also left unspecificied), “You can’t see it. But if you get a really good microscope and look really hard… You still can’t see it.” This movie will confound anyone seeking narrative clarity, but its absence is exactly what makes Ham on Rye such an appetizing enigma.


“At first glance, Tyler Taormina’s ‘Ham on Rye’ plays like ‘Dazed and Confused’ with more poetry and less connective tissue, or ‘Eighth Grade’ with benevolence in place of cruelty. Then things get weird…  a work of gentle, genuine American surrealism…”–Ty Burr, The Boston Globe (contemporaneous)

(This movie was nominated for review by Russ Joyner, who called it “an utterly unique film — come for the American Graffiti-through-a-Lynchian-lens aesthetic, stay for the surrealistic soul-crushing aftermath of snuffed out dreams — but with the faintest whiff of optimism.” Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)

6 thoughts on “APOCRYPHA CANDIDATE: HAM ON RYE (2019)”

  1. Currently free on Amazon Prime. Yes, it is weird and excellent filmmaking and everyone here should see it. Tyler Taormina will not be left behind.

    Having said that I have one small complaint. I thought “Ham on Rye” ran out of steam; the first half of the film is much better than the second half. I would have preferred to spend another 1/2 hour with those teenagers, and saved the scenes with the left-behinds for a 15 minute coda. Still, I urge you to see it (maybe you’ll think it’s perfect the way it is!)

  2. I liked this film but agree that it does run out of steam in its second half with all the building tension and fun aswell as most of the weirdness being in the first half.
    My argument agaisnt this being included on the list is everything (though not explained in-Universe) feels quite tied together under the metaphor of the coming of age plot so didn’t really leave me with a lingering feel of mystery.

  3. @Greg: I agree that the second half is the inferior half, but like you, it’s a small gripe. At the very least it provided the “consolation” and “impossible to see” speeches.

    @John: A valid point, but one reason I recommended this for the list is I know a lot of people who would be borderlin-infuriated that the central mystery is not only never explained, it’s almost never contemplated. (I think I only remember “it” even being questioned once, during the post-card scene, when Haylee asks, “Don’t you think it’s weird?”, and she’s just shrugged off as being weird even to ask such a thing.)

    This movie is more obliquely weird, in my view, than a lot of what we cover, and it gets all the more points in its favour for being that way.

  4. OkCupid handy

    I really liked OKC when I was using it and think it’s amongst the best dating sites, But i did something of an anti OKCupid story:I met my current SO face-to-face, At an event. it turns out that we have opposing political and religious views (We’re both fairly carrier, So we’re not polar opposites, But we do separate out ourselves as Dem/Rep, Atheist/Christian). i don’t know what moral one should take away from that, other than that your mental checklist of dating requirements may be less [spam link removed] relevant than you imagined.

    unfortunately, endless searches generate way more hits than you can process by hand. I worked around this by utilizing subsets of search criteria at a time. case in point, Instead of locate an Atheist/Agnostic 25 35 making over $50k with an Average or Athletic body type who likes backpacking, routines 3 4 times per week, And has a graduate degree, I would you should search for athletic Atheist/Agnostics making over $50k, Then search for women with graduate degrees who like treking, Then maybe widen the age range to 20 40 but apply other criteria, and so on. Sometimes I wasn’t considering getting a lot of results. in its place, I’d sit down with a desire for more information on a very specific search, which frequently resulted in zero hits. I’d fiddle having the search until I got a few hits. One day I met by far the most pretty girl (unavailable, generally) Who was Indian and kept making plans for how great it would be if she was going on my upcoming backpacking trip with me. So I did a search for South Asian women who listed hiking as an interest, And got zero last results, None within the in my area, despite I removed all other criteria (18 60+, 4’0″ 8’11, All body types, and also so on.) I was intrigued by the exact result, So i could other ethnic groups (No black women into treking, whether, IIRC) And found that East Asian + backpacking produced a set of results that I could process in a reasonable time. looking for women making over $150k turned up a very small set for my area, With a couple of intriquing, notable and surprisingly approachable sounding profiles. When I widened my search radius, I found one girl I may have messaged in a heartbeat if she lived closer. It was strange how often a small result set had a higher density of intriguing and compatible profiles, Even if the parameters I chose to create it seemed unrelated to my taste. The search disappointed the heck out of me; I assumed it would turn up a bunch of women I had no chance with and nothing that resembles. But which has been pretty typical for small result sets, At least the ones I tended to generate. Large result sets contained lots of alluring people, that, But the payoff of significant profiles per time spent slogging through results was much lower. I’ve never initiated any discussion on OKCupid and I’ve been on dates with about 50 women from that site. They usually contacted me first. In mid september of this year I had 15 different women check out my website in one week, generating 10 dates, that had been the record. the bottom line is to just have a few decent photos and be funny. More dates and cool women with challenging jobs, and the like. SF women are usually easier and put out on the first date, But are often much crazier. If at all possible, Don’t inform them your phone number. Make sure it’s easy to get a prescription for antibiotics. It’s about leveraging the speed of the internet to find another human being that works as a good match, So one would expect to beat out many others to get to a 1 in 100 match. I rarely care but these sort of misogynistic, antiquated nonsense is mildly offensive even to me. I personally try not to treat other human beings like disposable hump dolls and look for an a real connection, But maybe I’m just the current crazy hippie. To avoid the apparent but defective inference, i’m not into monogamy now either.

    The point was that describing women in the way of the last 3 sentences signals such a world view.

    It’s quite amazing in the traditionally world too: the total amount unwaranted (most likely creepy) heed women (All men and women, Not just the exquisite women) Receive daily (On the road, in the club, to colleagues). Amongst candidates that are actively on the market today, There’s a percentage that are _always_ on the market because they are either horrible or have unrealistic expectations.

    this is why, may right, it is about me. But give me an idea me to say? That it works for anybody?A lot of my good friends are photography lovers so most of my portraits are taken from them. 21 progressed six months (People of different levels of appeal)? received like. simply. and yet, you can’t say everyone has such fortunate results despite doing things that are civil and respectful. So anyone say, “So if that you read their profile and send intelligent messages selectively, you will definately get responses” Well I can say aging always work.

    women have to play a numbers game, so. If they go for the same guys the other girls go for, they won’t get time with the guy, Or they’ll get time with a guy who is dating a considerable number of other women. Women figure this out pretty fast. That means playing up why is you different, And being good at targeting yourself right women. I think one reason I’ve been successful is that I’m very honest and try to communicate as much of my personality as possible through my ad, Even the aspects of my personality that aren’t generally liked. That’s how you hook into women’s one taste and how you help them solve the numbers problem. (That’s not the same as putting your worst foot forward; I don’t advertise aspects of myself that nobody would like.)

    I think the idea (need marriage) Puts loads of guys off. Even though marriage ‘s what I’m looking for, I dodge eHarmony because I’m afraid of what kind of women it might attract. I have a friend who got married female he met on eHarmony, and then he seems happy. So it’s a fear I would expect women to hold, so. The categories could have been better chosen. I doubt many people fall clearly into a single such types of categories.

    relationship a girl 3 (probably 4) Years valid I met on OKCupid. She messaged me in those days, After I kind of gave up in the exact location (Some bad experiences on in person dates, oh no). I was in one short union from OKC during that time. I would say that my be subjected to has been good so far.

    The poll options remind me of a badly written switch survey. Not only are the options overlapping to various degrees, But they’re time critical. Say I just separated with someone from OkCupid. My answers would stand out today than yesterday, however the significant fact that OkCupid led to a relationship is unchanged. consider more humanized poll options:an. OkCupid been for meb. OkCupid hasn’t worked well for me yetc. I’ve never used OkCupidAt when, These poll email address details are useless. The poll tries to infer too much about general online dating service personals instead of answering the real question: Does amongst the most famous free online dating service, OkCupid, be employed by HN readers? That’s enough to research through one poll.

    foul. I spent two years on there, Met 2 people personally, Sent literally 100s upon 100s of messages. Giant waste of time I’m thoroughly convinced online dating does not work. Have you seen the movie Catfish? Its kind of like that, No one is who they appear to be via intenet. whats up if I’m ranting. It’s like when you find something you’ve lost, But only after you stop searching for it.

    different: Joined OkCupid for the silly quizzes they had way back when they first started, Kept it around as a social networking thing before facebook. com. Though I’m not shopping around, So which often can skew my opinion ;w.

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