Directed by: Cody Calahan
Written by: Peter Genoway
Starring: RJ Mitte, Peter Outerbridge
A man walks into a bar. No, I am not about to dispense a joke here. Quite the opposite, in fact. Because this man enters to release old wounds, personal history, and a consternating story. With its heavy snowfall coupled with an empty bar, the chilly weather boosts the horror tone of his story. The night is cold and full of snow. The man is persistent, and there is no place to go. Amidst the foggy suspense, a fleeting ray of laughter breaks through.
Let me introduce you to the players. The man I am referring to is Steve (RJ Mitte). He sets foot in a bar where the bartender is Paul (Peter Outerbridge). A long time ago, Steve admitted himself into a college and then never returned to his home - not even when his father died. After meandering for all these years, his sudden and unexpected appearance baffles and angers Paul. He is enraged with Steve. Anyhow, Steve has come bearing a story Paul cannot refuse. But this is what Steve thinks as Paul, eventually, refuses to hear even a word of it. A phone call is made in frustration, setting the deadline as midnight when the person - to whom the call is made - will arrive at the bar to wrap things up.
Writer Peter Genoway and director Cody Calahan expand on the power of storytelling. The case they present is simple: If the person narrating the story is a good teller and the person listening to the story is a keen listener, then the most mundane of accounts can be as vigorous and enthralling as a well-crafted suspense thriller. Paul is a bartender, and one of the qualities of a bartender is that he listens (Paul agrees with this notion). Thankfully, Steve is so engaging as a raconteur that he blends the camera with his words and gives visuals to his story (the same can be applied to the other characters in the movie).
There is no place better than a bar for eavesdropping on kooky anecdotes. A couple of drinks or a bottle of beer resuscitates your inner talkative personality. It vastly helps when there is a stranger on the receiving end. You are saved from discarding that extra baggage of revealing your history to have a consuming conversation. You have the liberty of pulling up any page from your life without pausing for second thoughts or fearing moral judgment from the other side. If your partner is too drunk (or if you are alone), then you can reach for the services of the bartender, who is always ready to hear your mind. Paul’s profession has exposed him to many tales from the drunk customers, and it has also made an attentive auditor out of him.
The Oak Room asks its viewer to be as alert as Paul. The movie is populated with stories and their storytellers and what It needs is an audience that is willing to submit itself to the many narrations in it. The Oak Room swaps urgency with recountal. Steve apprises his story in a non-chronological order - is he a fan of Christopher Nolan? Your liking for this film will depend on your level of capitulation. The more you suspend your disbelief, the more The Oak Room will hook you in its insinuation. Its sole impulsion is to convey a nightmarish experience. This ambition obliterates the resolution of the main thread, ending matters with equivocation. I hesitated when the camera took a 180-degree rotation for arranging a bottle on the table. “Great, this is going to be one of those heavily stylized works that content itself with weird movements of the camera,” I thought to myself. The Oak Room, though, won me over with its dedication and efficacious delivery of its intention. If you are a patient hearer, then it’s worth hearing to this film’s recital.
The Oak Room will available on Digital Download from 26th April.