Advance Review: Recently premiered at Cannes from Black Fawn Films!
THE OAK ROOM (2020)
Directed by Cody Calahan
Written by Peter Genoway
Starring RJ Mitte, Peter Outerbridge, Ari Millen, Nicholas Campbell, Martin Roach, David Ferry, Amos Crawley, Avery Esteves, Coal Campbell
You don’t need an extravagant set or big budget special effects to make a good movie. All you need is someone who can tell a good story. Well, THE OAK ROOM focuses on three pairs of people telling three different stories, making this a semi-anthology of sorts that somehow fits all together by the end. It’s a marvelous achievement in storytelling with an eclectic and talented cast.
A man walks into a bar is the beginning of many a story and joke, but when Steve (BREAKING BAD’s RJ Mitte) returns to his old watering hole, he is not greeted with open arms by his bartender Paul (Peter Outerbridge). Instead, it seems Steve has been walking the earth since he flunked out of college which was paid for with his pop’s last dime. Paul isn’t too keen on Steve’s free-wheeling attitude and wants him out, but Steve has a story to tell. What transpires is a story within a story, within a story, detailing a layered tale of anger, frustration, lies, deceit, sorrow, regret, and pain.
THE OAK ROOM is a storytelling marvel, twisting and turning in on itself multiple times. It should be hard to follow this complex plot, but some very simple cues and some keenly fine performances from the cast make everything easy to follow. There are plenty of surprises to be had, punchlines to be dropped, and tales to weave into one another here. It would ruin the film if I go into it with more detail. Let’s just say that the stories are unique, full of suspense, and worth hearing and I’ll leave it at that.
I loved this cast. RJ Mitte proves to be quite a talented actor and it’s great to see him doing something outside of the BREAKING BAD universe. He is pretty much the central hub of the tale and does a fantastic job of keeping the wheels rolling. I also really liked Ari Millen’s portrayal of another bartender at another bar (called the titular Oak Room). Millen was in I’LL TAKE YOUR DEAD and has a wonderfully menacing and cold stare that he utilizes all too well here. Peter Outerbridge and Martin Roach also offer up strong performances as the sounding boards for these intricately layered stories.
THE OAK ROOM is a writer’s movie. It is all about storytelling and the many ways one can unleash information in a fascinating way to keep the listener riveted to the tale. Apparently, THE OAK ROOM used to be a play and it plays out like one, pairing one person with another for story duets numerous times throughout the film. There is some bloodshed. And it is quite gruesome. But the true highlight lays in the love this film has with the spoken word. It is a finely scripted little thriller and sure to intrigue storytellers and those who love good storytelling.