The power of independent film is in telling stories that don’t often get told, and Strangers in a Room is just that sort of powerful cinema. Directed by Andre Rehal, Strangers in a Room focuses on veteran actor Jae (Jonathan Kim), as he explores a large life choice. Its beautiful cinematography enhances Kim’s engaging performance, and reflects Jae’s turbulent inner world.
Strangers in a Room is a physically beautiful film that tells the sort of story Hollywood doesn’t want you to hear. Its name is a reference to the audition process – where actors and actresses are judged by strangers in a room – and the audition in question is particularly difficult one for Jae, who is already struggling with questions of what happens when dreams and identity collide. Jae, who is a veteran actor, attends an audition, where he gives his name as Jacob – but that’s not all that he must do to secure a role.
Beyond the microagressions (and I’d even say macroaggressions – there’s no doubt about the racism in play at his audition), the entire situation grows more complicated when a video about the incident goes viral. What should be an exposure of how nasty industry politics collides with systemic racism instead becomes an emotionally devastating catalyst for Jae. Now Jae not only has to face dawning realizations about his hopes, careers, dreams, and nightmares – but he must do so knowing that video of those moments is being shared (and commented on) around the world. This unflinching, powerful work about the emotional cost of art and artistry focuses on Jae’s inner turmoil at a time when he has to reconsider his entire life. Within his inner world is a demon he must face – and the cost of that encounter has the potential to forever change him. Jae wrestles with whether or not he can continue forward to chase his dreams facing unbelievably difficult odds – and whether or not he even wants to.
Because the video goes viral, he isn’t able to sit privately with what happened. Instead he’s forced to talk about this difficult experience with Alisha (Shreya Patel), his ex-partner and current influencer / TV host hopeful. As he works through his emotional turmoil, we are asked to contemplate the masks we wear – and those that we force on others for our comfort. Jonathan Kim’s range of talents are on display in this engaging film – not only does he act, but he also sings. The many physical elements he brings to his performance really drive our sense of Jae’s constant inner struggle. Regardless of the interaction, we can see the damage done by his horrible experience at the audition, and the continued price he pays because of it.
The cinematography and camera work in Strangers in a Room is as exciting as it is lovely. Long, beautiful shots of a world doused in red are interspersed throughout the film, giving us insight into Jae’s rich inner world as he faces his choice. The music and soundtrack is the perfect fit for the stunning visual representation of Jae’s inner turmoil and the battle that rages between his hopes and our reality.
Strangers in a Room is an exceptionally beautiful and emotionally vivid film about a difficult and uncomfortable topic – and represents some of the best facets of independent film. Thoughtful, complex, and haunting, this one will stay with you for a while.
Striking and singular, this would be a beautiful film to see on the big screen – which you can do right now at Laemmle Glendale.