Cody Calahan (director)
26 April 2021 (released)
20 April 2021
Part anthology, part urban legend, part thriller, part mystery, part gangster, part horror, The Oak Room is genre broad. But the main factor was, did I enjoy it, and to that the answer is, yes.
Its closing time and Paul (Peter Outerbridge) is tidying up the bar ready to lock up when Steve (RJ Mitte) stumbles in. They have a history and Paul is no mood to reacquaint getting positively hostile. Paul calls a friend who’d be interested to meet up with Steve though he’ll take an hour to arrive.
In the meantime Steve recounts a story. This is also set in a bar called The Oak Room. It goes along similar territory with the barman Michael (Ari Millen) closing up with a man (Martin Roach) coming in to get out of a snow storm.
It’s a nervy exchange as the barman tries to get rid of the stranger, the stranger wants to make a call but he can’t recharge his mobile and he’s told the payphone has been knocked out by the weather. What follows is a tightly scripted exchange between the two as the barman offers a free drink with the stranger becoming ever more exasperated by his attitude and later gives Michael an opportunity to tell his story. A little later the phone on the wall rings.
Back to Steve who is ridiculed for the poor story by Paul who then tells his own, only for Steve to come back and say that he hasn’t finished, there’s more to tell from his of which he only told the end.
Set in two ill lit establishments, The Oak Room is a very dark film relying on the premises lighting mainly from behind the bar and the fridges to faintly luminate the bar area. It’s murky and shadowed thus effectively sinister and claustrophobic. There’s nothing cosy about these places at this time of night/morning and the feeling is that they are uninviting even during the day.
But the real power here is in the acting. There is very little action, and little characterisation just a lot of talking thanks to Peter Genoway’s script. At times it comes across as contrived and stagey (and this could certainly transfer to the stage well) but the actors are first class not missing the beats and rhythms of these types of conversations between strangers so they sound fine.
Unobtrusive direction by Cody Calahan keeps to the low approach. There’s never any real tension just an intrigue as to hoe this is all going to end. And so the story slowly unfolds to a semi-satisfying climax though maybe not for all.
The Oak Room will available on Digital Download from 26th April.