The Immaculate Room is a sleek and thoughtful feature, a great example of doing more with less. Due to COVID restrictions these past few years, there has been a distinctive uplift in what I would call “locked-room” movies – films with relatively few characters who remain in a single setting for the entire run-time. Many other plots have faltered or crumbled under this weight. The Immaculate Room leans into these restrictions by making themes of isolation, alienation, and the human psyche central to the film’s plot.
Kate Bosworth and Emilie Hirsch star as Kate and Mike, a couple competing in a psychological experiment. If they can last 50 days isolated within a blank white room, they win 5 million dollars. If either one of them leaves the room, the prize instantly drops to 1 million. If they both leave, they get nothing. No possessions are allowed into the room, and there is nearly zero contact with the outside world (other than the disembodied voice of the room itself, which chimes in to remind them of the rules) Food (if you can call it that) is dispensed via a slot in the wall. The whole thing looks a little like IKEA’s marketing department designed a prison.
Both leads deliver strong performances. Hirsch’s Mike is an artist. While he wants the prize money, his easygoing demeanor hints at a more privileged background. Hirsch gives a grounded performance – his career has taken some strange turns since his bravura turn in 2007’s Into the Wild. Here he again proves he will excel when given roles where he can use physicality to convey emotion. Bosworth’s Kate is more guarded and driven – she recites mantras to herself every morning in the bathroom mirror. I loved the versatility of Bosworth’s performance – keep an eye on the techniques Kate employs to motivate and keep Mike focused on the prize throughout the film.
Writer-director Mukunda Michael Dewil’s script deserves a lot of credit for the success of the film. The simplicity of the challenge alone is not very exciting, and the audience is braced for twists and turns. They come at the right intervals and build slowly from the familiar to the inevitably more disturbing. The rules set for the room are simultaneously simple and incredibly clever. Each participant has access to two “treats” they can access at any time. The catch? A treat deducts 100k from the prize fund. A “treat” for Mike might be pretty different from Kate’s. Some are innocent, and some are dangerous.
The film’s conclusion lands awkwardly and feels a bit divorced from the rest of the plot. I’m not sure I fully believed the resolution. The concept of the film naturally lends itself to bigger questions (how far would you go for money, how well do you know yourself, etc.) I appreciated that Dewil doesn’t allow the film to become a black and white morality tale. If any of us was stuck in a room for this long, I’m sure we’d all have our off-days.
In Theaters & On Demand August 19th
*Best Feature & Best Actor Award – Mammoth Film Festival*
*Best Feature Award – London Independent Film Awards*
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