A Room By The Road is a stellar exercise in a crime story that is engaging for its sights and atmosphere.
Published on February 28, 2023
Rating 3.5 /5
Sometimes even the most familiar crime narratives can make for good films if they’re well-made. It’s not a case of a budget, as some solid shooting, pacing, and atmosphere can make even the most familiar stories shine brighter. A Room By The Road is an excellent example of how a sharp crime thriller with suspense can be presented with a devotion to developing suspense.
Two friends have just fled from a robbery with a duffle bag packed with money. They hide out at a motel. One is shot and bleeding on the bed, while the other looks outside for the cops. With a few exchanges of words, we learn all about their attitudes and how they grew up together. They have a history and a greedy nature that could make this caper their last. The blood is believable enough for being so minimal and the motel, despite looking so pristine, is shot exceptionally well.
Then there’s an unexpected development when the housekeeping woman becomes suspicious and enters their room. The woman makes off with the many as the one friend bleeds out. The surviving friend tracks down this woman who has made off with his loot. He follows her to a cozy rural area where her extended family enjoys eating together. The criminal friend now has to make the tough decision to bring chaos to this family gathering if he wants his money back. The film ends on a somewhat ambiguous note, never fully answering what went down when he slips on the hood, draws his gun, and knocks on the door.
Whether this short was intended as a proof of concept or not for its abrupt ending, it’s a stirring 7-8 minutes of suspense. Various compelling shots range from showcasing the horizon of a motel’s many rooms to a drone shot hovering above the family home. Another style of shot I found rather refreshing is the roadside footage of a car driving past motels and convenience stores, evoking that classic style of thrillers that establishes the environment well. While prim and proper sets are usually a turn-off for these types of films, which do little to create a lived-in world, it works decently for this film that tries to stress the darkness hidden behind keeping a community clean with its criminality at bay.
A Room By The Road is a stellar exercise in a crime story that is engaging for its sights and atmosphere. In terms of its technicalities, it works so well at mounting its thrills that it left me on the edge of my seat, eager to see what might happen next. Director/co-writer Rose Kreider deserves much credit for this stellar showcase of showing off how well she can handle a crime thriller. I look forward to seeing what she can do with a full-length feature.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.