How deep is the power of a story? A story changes according to the tone you use, what you choose to say, the timing, the inflection, the emphasis. A small universe that lights up in blocks, capable of coming to life through our mouth. The Oak Room is a story thriller, a vademecum enclosed between oak walls capable of self-narrating from start to finish, keeping us in suspense. Presented at the 38th Turin Film Festival, in a section that has seen real pearls such as the fantahorror Fried Barry, the intimate and powerful Funny Face or even the ferocious Breeder, unfortunately it does not yet have an Italian release.
Director Cody Calahan stages a chamber drama that sharpens its blades on every single word, never out of place. And we can't help but listen, devouring page after page with that metallic aftertaste impossible to drive away.
tell me a story
Canada. Late night, blizzard, a bar like a lighthouse on the cliff. Paul (Peter Outerbridge) is about to close it and go home when Steve (RJ Mitte di Breaking Bad), a longtime acquaintance who had not returned to the city for a long time. There is so much they need to talk about, but Steve decides to tell a story, because maybe it might be of interest to Paul himself.
The Oak Room becomes a kind of game-book, where every street begins to branch out before our eyes, Chinese boxes that contain other narratives. A continuous rebound between equal and distant worlds, because there is another bar that is about to close, another customer ready with his story, hidden under the beard or in the face of a clock.
Cody Calahan's narrative then becomes an upside game, emotional swing that always seems on the verge of dropping us or ... worse.
The bar light
The ability with which The Oak Room plays with photography is delightful. A continuous clash between light and dark, small colored peaks that follow the characters, often eaten by shadow cones ready to hide intentions, thoughts and stories.
Everything in the bar (in bars) passes through light bulbs, LEDs, warm and soft colors that clash with the icy wind of the narratives, keeping us on a leash exactly like words, that Cody Calahan lets drip slowly, strangely alike crystals ready to rest on each other.
The strength of the film lies precisely in the power of its words: each change of scene brings us back to a detail that we must keep in mind, capable of being revealed as the story goes on.
Perhaps only in this the project gives way a little, taking for granted some very crucial elements to the plot, which appear out of nowhere and force the viewer to fill the mental hole of cause / effect that they create.
A man walks into a bar ...
In order to focus on oral narration, we need the right interpreters, capable of bearing the weight of their stories.
The Oak Room makes great use of RJ Mitte and Peter Outerbridge, young man with a secret and gruff bartender full of regrets. Former Walter Junior of Breaking Bad he works perfectly in the role of an awkward boy, with an apparently not very easy talking, perfect counterpoint for a hard and pure barman, as only one tempered by the cold can be.
And all the supporting actors, unveiled one after another as the stories tangle, carry their message, conveyed through the face, figures capable of detaching themselves from the orality of their own story, exploding with pulp colors like the great genre narratives can do.
In fact, director Cody Calahan immediately puts the cards on the table, starting from the poster: someone will bleed, it's only up to us to find out who. Indeed, more than anything else, find out why.