Director: Grant McPhee
MPAA Rating: NR
Director Grant McPhee is a seasoned professional when it comes to visual imagery in film, working on the cinematography and digital imaging for a number of projects that include Cloud Atlas, Under the Skin and Game of Thrones, just to name a few.
This knack for visual acuity is strikingly apparent in his latest directorial effort, Sarah’s Room. This feature-length film is the product of an experiment to see what kind of product a crew of professional actors and filmmakers can create given the very restrictive constraints of a five-day shooting schedule and a budget of only £4,000. Although this sounds like a probable recipe for disaster, it’s clear McPhee surrounded himself with talented people, as the end result is every bit as polished as a film with ten times this budget.
The film stars Patrick O’Brien as Joe, a clearly troubled man coming home from a mysterious absence only to find his girlfriend has taken in a roommate named Sarah, played by Hanna Stanbridge. Although Joe seems to have a real issue with this woman living in his home, he reluctantly agrees to accept it as he attempts to re-assimilate into his life.
Things unfortunately begin to unravel, however, as Joe falls into a cycle of lying around the house all day and drinking all night. He becomes increasingly paranoid about Sarah and starts believing there are some nefarious things afoot, causing even more tension between the trio of roommates.
The fact that a movie made for only £4,000 can look this good is a testament that one doesn’t need a seven-figure budget to make something look great. It’s these visuals that prove to be the highlight of Sarah’s Room, accentuating the disjointed confusion of the film. Conversely, this confusion parlays into the audience’s perception of the movie, resulting in a plot muddled by lack of exposition.
There’s no hand-holding in Sarah’s Room, and nearly everything is left in ambiguity. I’m all for leaving plot elements open for interpretation, but so little can be inferred about these characters that the story often comes off as confusing. Thankfully, the performances from O’Brien, Stanbridge and Kitty Colquhoun, who plays Joe’s girlfriend, were solid, making the overall experience much more palpable.
Sarah’s Room is the type of film that budding filmmakers should watch just to see how much one can do with very little money and time. Although the ambiguity of the plot is a slight detriment, the overall experience still proves to be an intriguing psychological drama that’s worth a look.