Vincent Prince’s review published on Letterboxd:
"I wanna be in here alone, I don't take baths with people."
Gallo's grand declaration of traditional masculinity as a carceral psyop, issuing the edict that only through openness and vulnerability can any sort of happiness be achieved. Told in the style of a fairy tale more than anything else, this simple childlike progression hidden by an aesthetic virtuosity rarely seen in debut features. From the beginning, its opening collage of expositional images sets up the character of Billy Brown in 15 seconds, a familiarity created immediately before he even opens his mouth.
Each time new imagery strikes me more and more. Billy and his father both identically posed, head in hands, defeated before it even begins, a bloated and ugly showcase of what Billy will become if he keeps running headfirst into the coping mechanisms he acquired from a lifetime of abuse. The puerility of Gallo's performance rings true, a man stuck in childhood, constantly processing emotions from moments of terror long ago that never left.
The bathtub sequence always hits the hardest for me, refusing to make yourself completely seen and vulnerable, that even in this most intimate setting, Billy must clothe himself and suffer the discomfort to not let his true suffering out.
Juxtaposing Lincoln, the great emancipator, with the beginning of Billy's imprisonment is a pretty great visual gag.
Billy Brown isn't to be liked. Billy Brown is fundamentally a gross, bad, person. But that exactly is what makes the film's conclusion so euphoric and hopeful. The lowest person made whole by love, that in this moment with such a social emphasis on accountability, Gallo makes room for penitence and growth.
Remarkable picture, so brave in its depiction of trauma, but Gallo's offscreen provocations will always overshadow the harrowing statements he left on celluloid.