Some of the best tales ever told are told in bars and The Oak Room is no different. It boasts an entertaining story with twists, turns, and (of course) a couple of cold ones but this exciting story never meets its full potential due to a lack of “finished feeling” by the film’s end.
“During a raging snowstorm, a drifter returns home to the blue-collar bar located in the remote town where he was born. When he offers to settle an old debt with a grizzled bartender by telling him a story, the night’s events quickly spin into a dark tale of mistaken identities, double-crosses, and shocking violence.”
The cinematography in The Oak Room deserves special recognition. Even though almost the entire film takes place in bars, the cinematography is so dynamic that the setting never becomes stale. The opening sequence features a crisp bottle of beer dropping condensation as two men brawl in the background to the tune of a hauntingly beautiful southern gothic rock song. This is just one example of the many artistically well-thought-out shots. There are effective camera pans choreographed with object movement, powerful stills, and quick cuts that keep the film rolling at a healthy pace.
The triumph of The Oak Room is largely in part to a complex story told in a way that never feels confusing or ill-conceived. The well-written script and solid editing prevent things from becoming a congealed mess. Several stories are intertwined via time hops and POV switches, but the tale unfolding made sense and there were never any questions.
All four main characters were well cast and comfortable in their respective roles. Moments of overacting quickly gave way to four very different (yet equally strong), dedicated performances. Peter Outerbridge was a perfect cast as gruff bartender Paul and worked well opposite RJ Mitte’s college drifter character Steve. The most dynamic performances belong to Ari Millen as local barkeep Michael and Martin Roach as weary traveler Richard. Millen and Roach are effortless in their roles and the subtle, organic nature of their performances creates an environment that draws you in and keeps you engaged from start to finish.
Though The Oak Room has a gripping story and a strong cast, by the end I was left wanting as the film’s finale lacked punch. We never meet some characters that could have added a lot to the drama and intrigue. The film feels like one big buildup to an awesome climax and the credits roll before we ever get to see that climax happen. I understand the purpose behind ending the film where it did, but the constant buildup throughout the film did not match the moment of climax/relief.
Overall, The Oak Room is worth your time. It is a fun, casual thriller that doesn’t require a ton of attention or effort. The story offers several twists and turns but unfortunately, those twists and turns stop at a bit of a dead-end. Don’t expect an edge of your seat thrill ride, but do expect a visually pleasing movie with a strong cast. To put it in the words of The Oak Room, the film would have benefited from a little “goosing up.” The film is now available on VOD streaming platforms.
7 out of 10