The Playroom

Screen International, April 27, 2012 | Go to article overview

The Playroom


Dir: Julia Dyer. US. 2012. 83mins

This elegantly structured family drama is a gripping, at times amusing and even oddly tender story of how four children do their best to deal with one terrible night in their young lives. Beautifully performed and directed with a good deal of thought and compassion, The Playroom deserves to find distributor and festival attention.

The film is a perfectly formed family drama.

Though John Hakes (who starred in The Surrogate and Winter's Bone) and Molly Parker are the titular stars of the film, in truth the four young performers who make up the Cantwell children are the moving heart of The Playroom, and they give fine performances as youngsters forced to tackle the childish behaviour of self-obsessed parents.

Set in 1970s American suburbia, the film focuses on the four children - vulnerable but organised Maggie (Olivia Harris), Christian (Jonathon McClendon), Janie (Alexandra Doke) and youngest boy Sam (Ian Veteto) - who are efficient at looking after themselves and even clearing up after their parents. They arrive back from school, tidy up the sitting room and set about doing their homework.

First home is their mother Donna (Molly Parker) who reaches for the bottle before looking to her children, and while father Martin (John Hawkes) is more compassionate towards them he is also distracted. When Clark and Nadia Knotts (Jonathan Brooks and Lydia Mackay) arrive for a drunken game of bridge the four children vanish upstairs to the playroom where they gather round a flickering light to tell stories. …

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