SXSW Film review: ‘Automatic Hate’ unravels dark secrets

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The tension of “The Automatic Hate” requires a chainsaw to cut through.

Director Justin Lerner’s film grapples with taboo love, discomfort and the gray areas that love and relationships can sometimes occupy.

Beyond its uncomfortable yet compelling subject matter, a dark family mystery propels “The Automatic Hate” down its river of disaffection. A man is tracked down by his estranged cousin, and he first writes her off as mistaken until curiosity gets the best of him and he discovers his father has an older brother who has been kept from him his entire life.

He travels to his uncle’s farm and encounters the kin, two more girl cousins and an aunt, he has never known.

As the two sides are drawn together by tragedy, his life is forever altered. The sordid secret that caused the siblings’ schism has been re-staged in the theater of their children’s lives. The libations flow, skeletons come out for dinner and all hell breaks loose.

“The Automatic Hate” works because the tension is worn heavy on the faces and in the psyches of its actors. It is felt through the screen, and with a smart captivating plot, it makes us cringe. It is not a passive moviegoing experience.

You might not be able to fully commit to a side through this one, but it undoubtedly will force you to think.

You can catch “The Automatic Hate” at 3:45 p.m. Friday at Stateside.

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