Fantasia 2020: RJ Mitte shines as a drifter who returns home in “The Oak Room”

Review By: Chuck Moore

“A story is worth a thousand words.” or so says Steve (RJ Mitte), as he settles into a bar on a cold and blustery night somewhere in a small Canadian town. It’s evident that he’s not quite welcome at this bar due to some past actions. The bartender Paul (Peter Outerbridge) is angry and feels that Steve owes him something. Steve wants to pay his debts with a story…

THE OAK ROOM directed by Cody Calahan is a story within a story within a story. It was originally a play written by Peter Genoway and he was again tapped to adapt the script for the big screen. Each tale within is told in such a way that intrigue is added to the other stories that are unfolding throughout the film. The weather is cold but the characters are colder towards one another as tension builds through some very well written dialogue.

The scenery in each location is very well shot which adds depth to the mystery and tension between the characters. It would be difficult to talk about this film without giving away some of the finer plot points so I will just say that the journey is well worth the payoff. The performances are mostly great throughout, but there are none better than RJ Mitte. I’ll be honest, I’m a bit surprised at RJ’s range. It’s not that he wasn’t good on Breaking Bad but it’s clear now that they may not have given him enough to do.

It’s hard not to think about Quentin Tarantino while watching The Oak Room given the fact that it’s essentially a stage play that is reminiscent of The Hateful Eight. There is also a nod to the narrative style used in Pulp Fiction. Where it differs are some of the strengths of the film. It’s 90 minutes and doesn’t nearly feel that long. I was actually left wanting more. There is enough left unsaid that it leaves the viewer some of the story to work out on it’s own. The hours I spent thinking about the film after it ended were as enjoyable as the film itself. I highly recommend taking the time to enjoy this film currently playing its world premier at Fantasia 2020.

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