Let me tell you a story. Man walks into a bar, a typical place where small town stories are told, which a story to tell. This is a thriller with a distinct Canadian flavor that is told and happens with the walls of two bars. There’s a bit of a meta flavor as the storyteller refers to a story within another story, but the performances sell the deal on this one. There’s obviously something else going on and about to go down.
The Oak Room was directed by Cody Calahan and written by Peter Genoway, who also wrote the play. The play won the New Play Award back in the Toronto Fringe Festival of 2013. In the middle of a snowstorm, a small Canadian town bar owner named Paul (Peter Outerbridge) is about to close when a young man named Steve (RJ Mitte) shows up. There’s a lot of history and bad blood between the two, but Steve insists he’s got a story to tell. It’s a story that happened in another town, in a bar called The Oak Room.
The concept of a story within a story is not unheard of, but it’s hard to execute with decent results. That’s not the case with this film, as it seems to flawlessly transition back and forth between stories with varying degrees of mystery and threat. Peter Outerbridge’s performance as Paul is the first thing that draws us in. The quieter his voice gets, the more dangerous he sounds. By contrast, RJ Mitte’s Steve seems to be an aloof and self-centered character, but there’s more bubbling under the surface.
Highly recommended for fans of performance-driven thrillers, and storytelling in movies in general. Obviously there are some twists, some easier to see coming than others. That being said, I found the performances engaging and with a thrilling story and escalating tension, that I would recommend trying to enjoy every minute rather than deduce what’s coming next. The good stories always have a good finale, but it’s worth enjoying the journey.
That will do for now.