The Letter Room (2020)

  • Year: 2020
  • Released: 11 Mar 2021
  • Country: United States
  • Adwords: Nominated for 1 Oscar. 7 wins & 7 nominations total
  • IMDb:
  • Rotten Tomatoes:
  • Available in: 720p, 1080p,
  • Language: English, Spanish
  • MPA Rating: TV-14
  • Genre: Short, Comedy
  • Runtime: 33 min
  • Writer: Elvira Lind
  • Director: Elvira Lind
  • Cast: Oscar Isaac, Alia Shawkat, Brian Petsos
  • Keywords: short film, black humor, love letter, death penalty, death row,

The Letter Room Storyline

At last, Richard, a solitary and compassionate corrections officer with a heart of gold, has been promoted to Director of Prisoner Communications. As Richard quickly gets the hang of his new job as master of the letter room, scanning all the incoming and outgoing correspondence of the inmates for contraband, his lonely life becomes irrevocably complicated when he gets too involved in the private life of a death row inmate. Now, well-meaning Richard feels compelled to take action. But, we all need someone to love us. Are things always black and white?

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The Letter Room Movie Reviews

I enjoyed the watch for the most part

“The Letter Room” is an American, mostly English-language live action short film from 2020 that runs for slightly over half an hour and managed to score an Oscar nomination earlier this year. This may have had to do with the lead actor here because Guatemalan-born Oscar Isaac (with a massive mustache in here) has won a Golden Globe in the past and he was a lead in a Coen brothers movie and also part of the recent Star Wars films. Definitely not a coincidence that he was a part of this project here and I will tell you why in a second, but it’s always nice to see really established actors appear in short movies. The genre needs them and more should follow in Isaac’s footsteps. This film was written and directed by Danish filmmaker Elvira Lind and she is Oscar Isaac’s wife. The two have collaborated on other occasions too and Lind has a pretty interesting body of work anyway. From music videos over documentaries and a series with a rating below 2.0 here on imdb she moved on to this film here and the Oscar nomination makes it her biggest success of course. This is about a man working in prison and there are some interesting aspects to him. Seems as if he gets along better with the inmates than with his colleagues at times, at least the more harmless inmates you could say. Look at how he makes sure one fella to receives a birthday song from everybody. He seems to be quite a loner and his only non-professional contact with the female species are magazines with naked women. Still he kinda cares for people as we find out when he breaks the rules and heads out to visit a woman who (he thinks) is about to commit suicide. That one is played by Alia Shawkat and fans of Arrested Development will surely recognize her. So yeah, if we briefly summarize this entire thing, we have a man working at a penitentiary and he aspired to get a new and better job there and you can see that he has some ambitions with his talk about how animals can help prison inmates, but for now he has to deal with the letters sent by and sent to the inmates. Steps are small there as well. This is where he comes across the (former) girlfriend of a man on death row and what she includes in her letters has a lasting impact on Isaac’s character.

I liked some things about this film. Mostly that it felt pretty realistic all in all. There is no big sob story or anything, no great drama or emotions, even if location and story could have justified it. Also that this film does not try to make a statement for or against the death penalty was a wise choice. The subtlety to it all was nice. Still there are memorable moments like when Shawkat’s character talks about the absurdity of Isaac’s character trying to save her life while he works at a facility that takes lives on numerous occasions. The guy responds that that is something entirely different and there are no deep discussions that follow up which was good. The film does not try to be more than it actually is. The soundtrack was interesting as well. Drums are something that you really do not hear too often in film soundtracks, so a bold choice and I think it worked. If you like the solution that most of what the woman wrote in these letters is not truth or reality is up to you. She just wants to make her former boyfriend feel better. Some of it is true though as she mentions on one occasion that he was the love of her life. Earlier during this film I thought that maybe the story with the Black man hoping for mail from his daughter would be more at the center of it all, but nope. They move away quickly from that again, but it makes sense as there were no letters waiting for him. In the end, this is referenced again and perhaps this was what I liked the least about this film. How the protagonist, even if we understood he wants to help and do good, writes a letter and pretends it came from the Black man’s daughter. It felt a bit like an overly happy ending to me and I would not have needed it. Did not have the most realistic vibe, but maybe it’s just me. I also wondered if the Black guy with his comment realized that it was not his daughter writing him, but I think not and this only had to do with how amazed he was that Isaac’s character helped him. Overall, the good is more frequent in this film than the weak, so I give the outcome a thumbs-up. The Oscar nomination I am also fine with because I really like Isaac in general, but a win would have been too much. Admittedly, the actual winner is really terrible, so I’d have preferred this one here to take the crown. Still need to watch the other three. (tt11962160)

a different kind of prison story; Oscar Issac is one of the new great star-actors

First of all, there’s Oscar Isaac, and… isn’t that enough for a review? What else am I going to say? “Hello, Cleveland!” No. This should suffice. That and his mustache. Maybe we should all just be thankful he wasn’t cast as Superman a few years back.

Ok, a little more. This is largely driven by Isaac, a star-actor who has the charisma and of a Harrison Ford, being an inherently captivating presence who understands how to draw out behavior and a psychological depth and nuance through just a look or a series of furrowed brows next to that epic stache. But it’s furthermore a fairly unique set up and pay off for a story set in prison, in particular death row, and how this officer gets drawn in to this one couple’s melancholy and seemingly distressing circumstance is dramatic gold to me. It’s always good for me if there’s a story where you have a character learning about another without them knowing – voyeurism 101, yeah, of course – but through it being in letters and how the information is doled out alongside direction that means to express that aloneness and genuine want (or even need) to help someone is quite moving. And if you were somehow ever wondering, Alia Shawcat is a devastating dramatic performer and gives her all to a character in just two scenes.

This should get the Oscar (oh hey pun intended I guess?) Not even for the star power but because it combines all that cinema can do in a brief time to leave the greatest impact (White Tiger is a pretty close second IMO).

Very good… Cute…

Ue beautiful, pity it’s a short, beautiful films shouldn’t be reduced to short films, but should translate into long and beautiful hours of film … #I cried So cute and sensitive, the relationship between the protagonist and the prisoner father, deserved it a film just for them…