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The Oak Room (2021) review and summary

Or as the first bartender tells his only client halfway through the film: “Are you telling me this story backwards? If I’m so bored of the ending, why am I going to care about the beginning? “This is a great question and an apt description of what we are going through on our own. Things are improving in the last 15 minutes or so – when the point does indeed become clear – but by then it is too late. .

Peter Outerbridge plays that bartender, Paul, a gruff, grizzled guy who has been around and seen things while serving drinks at his modest waterhole in a remote Ontario town. As it closes for the night in the middle of a snowstorm, a face from the past erupts through the door: Steve (RJ Mitte, “Breaking Bad”), who left for college several years ago. and hasn’t returned since, not even when his father died. We know Steve went to college because Paul keeps derisively calling him “College Boy”. Paul is still bitter about it, having been a good friend of Steve’s father and even paying for his funeral. (They establish all of this in a lackluster and awkward explanatory dialogue; Paul is especially prone to profanity that is so gratuitous and uninspired that it resonates.)

But shy Steve can explain where he’s been, and he has a story to tell about something that happened at another bar in another remote Ontario town: Oak Room. He even pulls a cardboard coaster out of the place to prove he’s been there. Calahan looks back on a week earlier on an equally stormy night, when a bartender named Michael (Ari Millen) was also preparing to shut down. Just then, a mysterious, well-dressed traveler (Martin Roach) is puffing, frozen and exhausted and in need of some heat and a drink. They too have a nerve-racking exchange, but the visitor offers Michael the opportunity to tell a story from his childhood, which also takes place in a snowstorm. Millen has a sneaky, slippery way of him that makes him untrustworthy, which also makes him the most interesting person in the movie – but that doesn’t mean much.

Then it’s back to the first bar, where Paul is more and more bored with Steve. Paul also has a story, and it involves Steve’s late father, a mechanic named Gord (Nicholas Campbell). But wouldn’t you know? As the affable and drinkable Gord is sitting at the bar, he has a story to tell too, so we’re stuck watching another flashback to when he was around Steve’s age.

Go and return «The Oak Room»Go, without ever creating the tension she ostensibly seeks. Instead, it winds from tale to tale, and the writing isn’t precise or precise enough to support that kind of complex setting. Working with cinematographer Jeff Maher, Calahan creates a dark ambience of the summit that is intriguing, including gaudy shots and striking aerial shots of barren trees in the dead of winter. The imagery suggests an ominous tone that doesn’t materialize as the film evolves. It’s never as smart as you think, until one big twist at the end changes everything that came before it. Until then, it’s been closing time for a long time.

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