SXSW 2023: PURE O Displays Raw Emotion and Vulnerability

An open book

Filmmaker Dillon Tucker is apparently one of the bravest men in the world.

This real life singer/songwriter had a true-life experience of being diagnosed with a condition known as Pure O, which exists on the OCD spectrum and involves experiencing uncontrollable, spiraling fantasies in which you convince yourself that you’re dying of cancer, that you caused a car crash, or that you murdered a loved one. Pleasant things like that, which most anyone would probably be happy to experience and share with their loved ones, right?!

Well, Dillon Tucker not only experienced this diagnosis, but also then wrote and directed a movie about it called Pure O. He went ahead and put his own music in there too, and crafted an absolute raw nerve of a film that puts every single emotion right there on the screen with a level of vulnerability that’s just not often seen anywhere. Pure O is a daring film as while it does have a meaningful dramatic arc and an excellent script, it relies deeply on simply putting its characters out there and exposing their most profound secrets and struggles and diagnoses and dealing with them in an extremely frank and open manner. I was profoundly moved by the film throughout its runtime, and yet I kept feeling the discomfort that comes from vulnerability. Our characters all have to overcome the potential rejection of their bared souls as they trust others with their deepest struggles, and Tucker and his cast must have had all those same struggles with the material as they crafted this film: what if we put ourselves out there and we are rejected?

Daniel Dorr plays the lead, Cooper, who is diagnosed in the opening scenes and whom we follow as he processes this diagnosis, shares it with his family, and seeks treatment through group therapy, all while also navigating his engagement to Em (Hope Lauren, who is incredible here) and his work as a recovery counselor at an L.A. rehab facility. Cooper’s struggles are deep and Pure O doesn’t shy away from troubling depictions of what Cooper’s obsessive tendencies are like. But what’s crucial is that Cooper is deeply connected to the humans in his life; he’s surrounded by people he loves well and who love him back. As high and as low as all the characters’ journeys in Pure O go, there’s always an intentionality and a willingness to share and be vulnerable that permeates the project and affirms the value of a community. Cooper’s group therapy sessions with others who experience his condition are so personal, detailed, and raw, featuring incredible performances. His relationships with those in recovery who are living at the rehab facility are remarkable and never strike a false note. And most of all Cooper and Em have a phenomenally intimate relationship with enormous chemistry between the leads.

I highly recommend Dillon Tucker’s Pure O to experience for yourself the feelings of empathy which can be derived from a work as authentic and vulnerable as this one is.

And I’m Out.

Previous post SXSW 2023: RAGING GRACE—A Haunting Damnation of Diaspora
Next post SXSW 2023: THE STARLING GIRL, on Religion, Suppression, and Desire