Fantasia Festival Review: The Oak Room

There’s no way of actually knowing how far Storytelling dates back through human history, but it’s a fair bet that ever since homo-sapiens could speak that oral traditions have existed. Predating writing, it’s the way families, communities and societies has imparted knowledge between generations down through ages. It remains, to this day, the main way many indigenous groups retain a shared history. Cody Calahan’s new film, The Oak Room, spins a rare yarn.

There’s a blizzard raging outside and in a small Canadian town Paul (Peter Outerbridge) is closing up for the night. His ministrations are rudely interrupted by the appearance of Steve (RJ Mitte) in his car, the son of his late best friend, Gord (Nicholas Campbell). It’s been years since he’s seen the boy and Paul’s bristling that he did not return for his father’s funeral. Enmity grows between the pair as Steve recounts a tale about The Oak Room.

The Oak Room intertwines several stories in one film in order to build-up an overarching narrative. Tension slowly builds through these accounts, gradually sucking the audience into the mystery. Based on a play by Peter Genoway, which he adapted, Calahan’s film has a theatrical bent. The cinematography and sound design serve to heighten this feeling of claustrophobia and sense of place. By the end, The Oak Room will have you on the edge of your seat.

The Oak Room screens at Fantasia Festival.

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