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film review

RJ Mitte as Steve in The Oak Room.Breakthrough Entertainment

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  • The Oak Room
  • Directed by Cody Calahan
  • Written by Peter Genoway
  • Starring RJ Mitte, Peter Outerbridge, Ari Millen, Nicholas Campbell
  • Classification 14A; 90 minutes


Ari Millen as bartender Michael.Breakthrough Entertainment

It was a dark and stormy night when a guy walks into a bar and tells a tale about a guy walking into a bar on a dark and stormy night. Cliché? Maybe on my part, but not when it comes to The Oak Room, a taut exercise in story-weaving and twists turned on their heads. This slow-boiling Canadian thriller is about fathers and sons and how many words a story is worth. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. (Which reminds me: Someone gets their head chopped off.)

In adapting writer Peter Genoway’s fringe-festival stage play of the same, director Cody Calahan hasn’t dressed things up much. It’s dialogue-driven, set in a dingy Ontario taproom – real Kirkland Lake Canadiana. The deep-winter setting and time-shifting storytelling might remind one of Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight. Because of the smaller cast – veteran actor Nicholas Campbell turns up in a potent cameo – let’s call it the suspicious six.

Peter Outerbridge as Paul.Breakthrough Entertainment

We get the end of the story first – the rest of the film works its way back. Granted, the going is unhurried – but, as it is explained, “everything just slows down” in a snowstorm. The acting is fine, though, keeping our attention. A lot of things are said; a lot is not. It was a dark and stormy night. An audience walks into a film – and stays for the whole 90 minutes, because it is worth it.

The Oak Room is available on-demand, including Apple TV/iTunes and Google Play, starting April 30

In the interest of consistency across all critics’ reviews, The Globe has eliminated its star-rating system in film and theatre to align with coverage of music, books, visual arts and dance. Instead, works of excellence will be noted with a Critic’s Pick designation across all coverage.