The Keeping Room

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game.

“War is cruelty. There is no use trying to reform it. The crueler it is, the sooner it will be over.” This quote from William Tecumsah Sherman is what opens The Keeping Room, a contained, period-piece thriller that came out just last year. It also seems to be the film’s motto, since the movie is cruel, and it definitely leaves you wishing it were over sooner.

Set in “The American South” in 1865–seriously, that’s what they call it, not Alabama, or Georgia, or anywhere specific like that–the film focuses on three young women, two white sisters and their black slave, struggling to defend themselves from two marauding Union soldiers. While it boasts a talented cast, some realistic costumes and sets, a beautiful landscape, and passes the Bechdel test with flying colors–all things which I usually love to see in a movie–The Keeping Room is not a film I feel I can recommend to you all. The reason is simple: it is extremely boring.

This picture moves at a SNAIL’S pace. The first eight minutes, in addition to not having anything super important happen in them, have absolutely no dialogue. So straight off the bat, you’re left waiting, and wondering. On top of that, the film features tons of long, unbroken shots of characters just doing stuff, like chopping wood, or getting water. And when I say long, I mean just that. See, the average length for a shot in a movie is about 5 seconds. I counted, and the average length for a shot in this movie is eight seconds. That might not seem like much of a difference to you now, but, trust me, when you watch this film, it feels like an eternity. All my professors have told me the same thing, don’t linger on an image unless its important. Unless that swing, that broken wagon wheel, or that bowl, are somehow vital to the story, don’t just keep it on screen. Otherwise you’ll leave the audience wondering, “why am I staring at a swing, a broken wagon wheel, or a bowl?” That’s precisely what I thought when I watched this movie, and that is never a good sign.

In addition to the slow pacing, the film is frightfully serious, and wants you, the audience, to recognize how serious it is by having super long pauses with dramatic musical swells after anyone says or does something remotely important. In one scene, for instance, the younger sister, Louise, says that she doesn’t want to work in the fields anymore, declaring, “She [meaning Mad, the slave] is the n****r. Make her do it.” Everyone literally stops what they’re doing for about five seconds to stare at her, and then the older sister says in a super grave tone of voice, “We’re all n****rs now.” I honestly felt like laughing after I saw that. And the film is full of moments like it.

Now, I don’t want to be too hard on this movie, since, like I said, it does have merits. The acting is good. The costumes and the sets are nice. And the women do speak about subjects other than men, which is rare in most movies. But I honestly don’t feel like any of that matters, when you consider how boring it is, and also how horrific some of the violence gets. If, however, you don’t mind slower pacing, unnecessarily long shots, and rape in your entertainment, you might enjoy The Keeping Room. As for me, I don’t think I’ll ever watch this movie again.

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