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The Letter Room (2020) Short Film Review

Comedy / Drama

By Diresh SheridPublished about a year ago 3 min read
6.8/10 IMDb | 3.4/5 Letterboxd

The Letter Room, a short film nominated at the 2021 Oscars, boasts a star-studded cast led by Oscar Isaac, who dominates every frame of the 30-minute runtime. Written and directed by Elvira Lind, a documentarian and Isaac's spouse, the film exudes the class of a mainstream feature film, with well-blocked scenes, a cleverly constructed narrative, and strong performances that create convincing characters despite the film's limited runtime.

Isaac plays Richard, a corrections officer who embodies all the typical jailhouse hero tropes. He listens to the inmates, strives to do his job fairly, and offers humanity and favors to those who need it. However, he goes further than his colleagues by finding the humanity in each inmate, much like Tom Hanks' character in The Green Mile. Isaac's engaging performance gifts his character a likable tone, even beneath the almost cartoonish mustache he sports.

The film exclusively experiences the world through Richard's perspective, with the camera focused on Isaac for almost every moment. He deals with death row inmates and the office culture of his penitentiary behind the scenes, coming into contact with a series of erotic letters addressed to one particular prisoner that he takes an interest in. Living alone and feasting on microwave meals each evening, Richard finds a spark of inspiration in the letters, giving him a reason to go to work.

Although the film has a comical edge, there are a few instances where the makeup and pristinely trimmed eyebrows of Isaac's star power are apparent. The lack of emotional resonance in the film is due to the fact that it never fully immerses the viewer in the world of the story, offering something relatively cartoonish in its place. The Letter Room has some things to say but seems to have intentions away from any major political statement or artistic signature. It brings into focus the lives behind the faces on death row but offers little other than a darkly humorous office comedy.

Despite these drawbacks, the film has many top-class elements, showcasing Lind's potential in the feature drama realm. Although there are a number of disconnects in the machinations of the film, it is worth the small fee it takes to purchase for fans of Lind or Isaac in particular.

Isaac's Richard is extraordinary within the tough but fairly ordinary life he leads, capturing the audience's attention and interest throughout the film's runtime. Lind's direction brings the best out of Isaac's performance, making it one of the film's most engaging elements. The story is well written, with a cleverly constructed narrative that explores the lives of death row inmates and the people who work with them. Although the film's focus is on Richard's character, it still manages to provide an insight into the world of the prison system, highlighting the complexities of life behind bars.

The film's main flaw is its inability to create an emotional connection between the audience and the characters. The film's relatively short runtime limits the development of the characters, making it difficult for the audience to truly care about them. While the film's comical elements are entertaining, they undermine the film's more serious themes, leaving the viewer feeling somewhat unsatisfied.

The Letter Room is a film that is worth watching, particularly for fans of Isaac or Lind. Despite its flaws, the film showcases some top-class elements that make it an interesting experiment in exploring the lives of death row inmates and the people who work with them. It may not be the most emotionally resonant film, but it is still a well-crafted piece of cinema that highlights the potential of its director and star.


About the Creator

Diresh Sherid

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