Jan 10, 2024
Anthony Riach (voice), Paulina Kowalewska (voice)
In this age of super sleek animation and the annoyingly clean lines of Pixar, it's easy to forget it was once an art and not a science. To be raised on the films of Walt Disney was an education in itself. There was fascination in what was a painstaking process. Just imagine an animator toiling over every frame of action as they slowly brought characters to life. Room 20 evokes much the same curiosity and sense of wonder. Even more remarkable is the end product which, at a lean nine minutes and fifty seconds packs immense detail and largely without spoken dialogue.
The hero of the piece is strangely a man with no name; which is appropriate as he sports designer stubble, a poncho and Fedora hat. This gives off a distinct Clint Eastward vibe in Spaghetti Western mode. He begins a journey of self discovery and tentatively steps through the door to Room 20. We are treated to a visually arresting narrative that feels like the most vivid of dreams. The film opens with a lonely walk through a bleak landscape which will be familiar to many from their own dreams. With the emphasis on time our hero searches and finds Room 20. But what will he find beyond the door?
The result is enigmatic, confusing but ultimately fulfilling experience. The hero's journey takes him from happiness to sadness and every emotion in between. Every scene is packed with symbolism that can be read in any number of ways. He is constantly checking his watch and seemingly transfixed by time; perhaps a man searching for what's missing in his life, but is time running out? Room 20 throws all these possibilities at the viewer who must draw their own conclusions. The style of animation is unashamedly nostalgic, and doesn't seem to rely on CGI or other digital enhancements. The visuals are rich and created with cinematic techniques to the fore. Writer and director Anthony Riach has made a film that can be as simple or complex as we want it to be. But a significant shout must also go out to animation director Aaron Mark Brown who truly understood the vision.