THE OAK ROOM *** Canada 2020 Dir: Cody Calahan. 90 mins
The power of stories, how they are told and who they affect lie at the heart of this contemplative thriller.
When RJ Mitte (‘Breaking Bad’) walks into a bar during a blizzard he is not a welcome visitor. He hasn’t been seen in over three years, during which his father died and the incredulous bar owner (Peter Outerbridge) is enraged when all he is offered is a story instead of the money he claims he is owed. What follows is a narrative trick we have all seen played out numerous times and it’s thanks to people like Quentin Tarantino that we have all become familiar with them. Despite being very written, I do like a single location film based around people telling stories and a bar on a stormy night is perfect.
The film never manages to completely escape its artifice but the performances are all great, the photography and sound design top notch. My eyes were rolling a bit early on with the plot contrivances but patience was rewarded with some interesting turns and some unexpected emotional developments. There is nothing like a good story to entrance an audience and while this film dares to reveal its hand to the audience it nevertheless succeeds in creating a dark and entertaining tale.
Review by Ben Underwood