‘The Playroom’ plays with heartstrings

Daphne Yu

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Oftentimes when eleven o’ clock comes and goes and I’m still swamped in all the homework I haven’t done, I think to myself, “Wouldn’t it be great if I was a kid again?”

In the independent film “The Playroom,” directed by Julia Dyer, the imagination of four children past their bedtime allows audiences to revisit childhood from a different perspective. Immersing the audience in the journey the children dream up to escape their real life situation, the film successfully sends a message about the bridge between childhood and adulthood in an intimate way.

From the very first scene with the kids, Maggie (Olivia Harris), Christian (Jonathon McClendon), Janie (Alexandra Doke) and Sam (Ian Veteto), huddled around a lit candle, the film has an addictive quality. The soundtrack throws in a pinch of curiosity, and the dulcet timbre of Maggie’s voice saying the words, “Once upon a time, there were four children…” weighs the audience down with the knowledge that the story they’re weaving will be somewhat autobiographical.

In the real world, the four children are tightly knit together in a family situation where their daily routine involves cleaning up the drinking mess their parents leave from the night before. However, even though the flaws of their parents, Martin (John Hawkes, “Winter’s Bone”) and Donna (Molly Parker, “The Firm”), make the audience want to despise them, the loving way they treat their children makes it impossible. Instead, the mixed feelings for characters only draws the viewer more and more into the tumultuous life of the family.

In a film where nearly 70 percent of the scenes involve only the children, the cast of kids pull it off extremely well. Harris leads the team through scene after scene, from emotionally-charged minute where two siblings disagree to the calm quietude of their story telling moments. One cannot ask for more. They portray fear, hatred and love in such an innocent way that fits perfectly with the theme of childhood.

Although the story starts on the slow side, it moves along in due time in an engaging manner. The interwoven jumps from fantasy to real life are well thought out, and the beginning of one world always makes the audience wish for more of the other. The film even offers small bits of humor which add the perfect touches to such a dark film.
All in all, “The Playroom” is a deep, moving film that touches on the subjects of teenage love, family bonds, truths and lies and above all else, what it means to grow up. A sad tale of the experiences four fictional children take part of in the 1970’s childhood, “The Playroom” is nothing short of wonderful.
By Daphne Yu