Lord Byron‘s title character is a horny, unemployed guy who enjoys collecting pictures of saints and smoking weed in his bedroom while waiting for his many girlfriends to get off work. He lives with his ex-wife, her kids, and her boyfriend(s) in one of those working-class homes where every room looks like a storage room and random folk come in and out to sell drugs, do drugs, pitch their performance-art pieces, exchange stories about Genghis Khan’s grave, or discuss the idiosyncrasies of human existence.
Despite its dysfunctional blue-color household setting and marijuana motifs, the film is uninterested in the narratives of intimate heroism that are often attached to films about the former or the slacker comedy associated with the latter. Artisanal and unpretentious, Lord Byron feels more like something out of the 1980s experimental video scene in Milwaukee. It’s the increasingly rare kind of American indie that knows that technical mastery and conventionally beautiful cinematography are no guarantee for good filmmaking. So it pursues its characters’ questions, philosophical and mundane, embracing the jerkiness of the camera, the spontaneity of nonprofessional actors, and a refreshing anti-aesthetic.
The voiceover has its share of triteness (“Maybe I was just dreaming!”), and Byron’s narration can sometimes sound as if he’s reading it off a sheet of paper. But the film has a makeshift charm and a thrift-store sensibility that can be consistently disarming. Byron’s is the home of the absolutely dead American dream. No one is going anywhere unless they win a lottery ticket. And when they do, someone else will make sure to claim it as theirs.
The electric guitar strumming and pseudo-philosophical conversations that tend to follow weed-smoking can feel quite alienating for an audience that isn’t necessarily partaking in the same activities. Yet Lord Byron manages to turn the nonsensical gibberish into a captivating soundtrack for the equally fragmented stories of the strangers living in the same home.