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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Room
Room
Arts Alliance America // Unrated // January 23, 2007
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Thomas Spurlin | posted January 24, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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At times, ambiguity can be a true friend when enjoying and dissecting a psychologically challenging movie. Drawing viewer-specific conclusions is a true asset to a film because it calls for intense viewer investment. However, murky closure at the end can also weaken the overall potency of a film. Such is the case with Room, director Kyle Henry's venture into the downward spiral of a poverty-stricken wife. Though the film boasts a great combination of strong characterization and visual/aural style, Room's generated suspenseful energy withers quickly at the finale. This is a shame, because the build-up all the way to the end of this psychological exercise is actually pretty good.

The Film:

Julia (Cyndi Williams) has reached a rock-bottom state. Her, her husband and two daughters can barely afford to live in their Texas home. After coming home from her low-paying job at a bingo joint, Julia has to deal with her unresponsive family. She grows fatigued, depressed, and desperate as her persistent migraines grow worse. Once these sensations start to overpower Julia, she begins to have spells where her vision grows fuzzy, her head feels light, and obscure visions of an open-aired room faze into the blur. This room rears its ugly head each and every time she begins to grow dizzy.

Constant questions about the room internally pluck at Julia's weakening mind during this story. As this chilling journey of discovery progresses, she grows more and more unnerved. Once desperation and a loss of inhibition kicks in, everything fall apart as Julia tries to scrape together all she can to cope with her situation. She does this by escaping her plagued life and venturing to New York in an attempt to solve her enigma. Extreme anxiety plagues this woman to do many illogical acts that lead to her escape. Once disappeared, Julia tries to nail down what has plagued her all along – namely that room.

Room is a tense, kinetic indie film that'll wedge under the skin with style and attitude. Many unanswered questions rise and fall during this layered labyrinth. Instead of outright answers, director Henry gives viewers the availability to devise their own assumptions on Julia's thoughts instead of definite answers. Films like this thrive on humanity's desire to solve riddles based on all the clues and the character's internal dialogue. Williams' Julia possesses such potent internal dialogue that her eyes scream in agony as her numbed face appears emotionless. She and her troubled essence carry this film on her shoulders. With the aid of a great soundtrack including nerve-grating electronic tunes, Room possesses a piercing atmosphere that builds brooding suspense amidst Williams' gripping portrayal.

What ultimately causes the film to fizzle at the end is the same element that gave the film strength early on – ambiguity. Through this 75 minute rollercoaster through Julia's struggle, seemingly incoherent "clues" guide the viewer through this network of events. Sadly, the resolution to this winding narrative is muddled and surprisingly anti-climactic. There were just too much left unanswered and abandoned at the conclusion of Room to wholly justify the journey to the end. However, even with an unsatisfying ending that could be deemed either experimentally fresh or an irresolute letdown, Room possesses a certain punch to the narrative and tone that's worth a trip.


The DVD:

Video:

Room is presented in an anamorphic widescreen transfer that is a sufficient mixed bag. Expected as an independent film, many of the colors appeared with moderate intensity, at times fairly weak. Black levels were tinted greens and reds at particular times throughout the presentation. Detail wasn't terribly sharp, either. Many of these elements might come from the source of the print, though. Even amidst this, the camera work around the rural settings and dim city locales still came out decently through the transfer.

Audio:

The audio, differing from the picture quality, is quite impressive. Room's sharp electronic music and tense digital effects all poured through with ample depth and clarity through the Dolby track. Much of the film's atmosphere leans heavily on the strong audio presentation. Through this track, the music and ambient effects poured through well. Room's dialogue could have been a bit crisper, but it still stood up decently.

Extras:

Bare bones, except a Chapter Selection.

Final Thoughts:

With a standout performance from Cyndi Williams, stellar aural presentation, and clever characterization around the female lead, Room embodies a nerve-rattling atmosphere. Though the film closes up with an oddly empty conclusion, the trip through this poor wife's trials still maintains enough strength worth the viewing. Definitely Rent this one first to get into the atmosphere and brave through Julia's struggle.



Thomas Spurlin, Staff Reviewer -- DVDTalk Reviews | Personal Blog/Site
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