Thursday, August 27, 2020

Fantasia '20: Everyone Has a Dark Tale to Tell in The Oak Room: A Film Review

*full disclosure: online access to the Fantasia Film Festival was provided by the fine staff from the event.

Director: Cody Calahan.

Writer: Peter Genoway.

Cast: Coal Campbell, Nicholas Campbell, Amos Crawley, Avery Esteves, David Ferry, Ari Millen, RJ Mitte, Peter Outerbridge and Martin Roach.

The Oak Room is a co-production between Black Fawn Films and Citizen Skull Productions. Together, these two companies have assembled a great team of filmmakers, including: director Cody Calahan (Antisocial) and Peter Genoway. The Oak Room's screenplay was developed by Genoway, who also created the original play, from 2013. This film recently had an appearance at Cannes, before having its public World Premiere at the Fantasia Film Festival. This title is very layered and the story develops much like a Russian doll, in which there are smaller dolls or stories within each larger doll. Two stories converge thanks to one character. And, this is a small film with a decent payoff. A true mystery with heart, The Oak Room takes time to build its complex story.

In the film, there are two competing storylines here. Steve, played by RJ Mitte, wants his father's ashes and things back from bartender Paul (Peter Outerbridge). "A story has a thousand words" says Steve. But, his tale also has a villain or two within. One of the villains is searching for someone who may be a patron. Still, it is best to leave these plot details in the haze. Meanwhile, Paul has a tale to tell of Steve's father, Gord (Nicholas Campbell). However, Gord also has a tale to tell, within this second story string. Viewers will begin to clue in, here, how there is another doll within doll here, or a tale within a tale. Near the finale, one smaller character links both tales together, but how this is done will be left in mystery.

Character's motivations are often hidden in The Oak Room.

The Oak Room
is a smallish film. When plays are set to film, you will notice how the setting remains static. And though, there are two different settings in the film, both are pubs or bars. And, these two bars look strangely familiar. As well, there are only a few characters here, so the focus is mostly on dialogue and interweaving two apparently separate stories together. The ending is a little too open. But, The Oak Room will make most people talk more about the film long after the curtains come down.

Finally, the payoff, or late reveal, for the film is worth the watch. Though, it takes a bit of patience to get to the reveal. There may be a bit of a pacing issue in the first third of the film. However, once the Third Act comes into play, The Oak Room kind of zigs when you might expect it to zag. Genoway's writing work is affective here and most viewers will find the film an enjoyable time.

There does not appear to be any future showings at Fantasia, for The Oak Room. However, Breakthrough Entertainment is sure to widen the release schedule for this thriller, soon. Full of intriguing plotlines and character development, filmmakers Calahan and Genoway have brought an intriguing title to the screen, here. One character's childhood is grim, while other characters struggle with: remorse or loss. This is a complex film and viewers will have to stay on their toes, to figure out what is coming next.

Overall: 7.75 out of 10.

The Oak Room at the Fantasia Film Festival: The Oak Room Details at Fantasia

This release at Black Fawn Films: The Oak Room at Black Fawn Films

Follow 28DLA on Twitter: 28DLA on Twitter! 

Subscribe to 28 Days Later: An Analysis 28 Days Later Analysis Email Subscription