By Jeff Walsh
"The Graffiti Artist" is a small, hypnotic gem of a movie. Nick lives a world detached from other people, just skateboarding through Seattle and Portland, spray-painting his signature tag "Rupture" everywhere he can, stealing what he needs, and crashing where he gets tired.
It's easy to dismiss this movie (in fact, someone watching it with me couldn't stand it, because they said nothing happens and the acting was so stilted), but that wasn't my take on it. I saw the tagging as his version of leaving his mark on the world, the only way he learned how to fully express himself. The constant need to tag seems to be that he has so much inside of him he wants to get out, he just doesn't know how.
At a skate park, Nick can't stop watching this one guy, following him after he leaves. He sees the other kid tag a wall, and then skate away, making eye contact right before he leaves. Nick runs into him again in Seattle, and this time yells out for him. Their conversation is awkward, aside from talking about tagging and skateboarding.
They start hanging out. Jesse buys Nick a new skateboard, some food, and lets him crash at his place. Most of their friendship is non-verbal, their deepening bond illustrated by Nick letting Jesse do the outline on a tag, while he shades the interior. Nick is clearly attracted to Jesse, and equally unsure of what to do about his attraction. He checks him out when he comes out of the shower, but won't share a bed with him.
After a tender, spontaneous sex scene, Jesse immediately pulls back by not collaborating on graffiti with Nick. So, by the time he pulls away from Nick's embrace that night, and decides to leave town the next day, it's not a surprise.
So, will they get together? Is Jesse even gay? Got to save you something to find out if you rent it.
I will say that it is not a tight, quick-paced traditional narrative with some big Hollywood finish. There's no graffiti-off onstage where they end up competing or any such nonsense. I can clearly see the point of view of my friend who disliked it, but I still maintain there was something here worth seeing.