“He’s going to wear out his asshole,” exclaims Charlie to his girlfriend, Thea, as they try to settle into bed while their neighbor continues to have loud, manly, and rampant sex all the live long day. Mike Donahue’s Troy is a short film that been on my radar for more than a year, and it remains of my absolute favorite contenders in this year’s Live Action Short race. While Troy does deliver on the funny front, it is the rare comedy that pierces the heart as it comments on connection and boundaries.
Charlie and Thea have been enduring the endurance of their muscled male masseuse for months now. His rollicking sexcapades are a part of their everyday lives. Doing the dishes? Loud man sex. Trying to relax with a puzzle? Continuous wall-banging. It’s become so commonplace that Thea finds her mother (why, hello, Dana Delany) trying to hear every detail with a glass up to the wall. “Troy is a big dick name,” one of their friends says to them with a knowing chuckle.
In their efforts to try to ask Troy to keep the sounds of his constant fucking down, they overhear Troy’s angry boyfriend breaking up with him after he realizes that Troy isn’t, shall we say, working in marketing anymore. Thank God Troy didn’t already invest in an OnlyFans…yet. Charlie and Thea are surprised to hear Troy going through the pangs of a breakup, and their attention goes from inhibited annoyance to openhearted tenderness. How do they make Troy know that they are there for him just beyond their paper-thin, New York City apartment walls?
Donahue taps into something wholly human with his film. After we collectively experienced something like the COVID-19 pandemic, some of us are more tolerant to the strangers around us, and Charlie and Thea are–whether they like it or not–are part of Troy’s lives. They are aware of his most intimate interactions, but they are taken aback by how much they are exposed to Troy’s heart–even if Troy isn’t entirely aware of it. Perhaps Troy thinks that his walls are, magically, thicker.
While some films are too open with how they plan to make you feel, Troy is the opposite. It’s unexpected, painfully funny, but also deeply felt. Because we are not aware of where our emotions are going to go, our journey is just as rewarding because we didn’t think a film about the muscled guy next door was something we were going to connect with so intensely. We should all be so lucky to know that strangers are looking out for us when we experience heartbreak.
You can stream Troy on The New Yorker’s YouTube page here.