Snooping Isn’t Just for Children in ‘The Letter Room’

A still from short film 'The Letter Room'.  Richard (Oscar Issac) is shown in a mid-shot, to the left of the frame. He is a Prison officer walking past some cells, one pair of arms is clasped through the bars, relaxed. He is smiling towards an unseen inmate. He wears a khaki and black officers uniform and has wavy dark hair and a thick black moustache, he carries a small pile of letters in his hand.
Salaud Morisset

Written and directed by Elvira Lind, The Letter Room grants us a possible solution to that very problem: reading a man’s letters. Words, like thoughts, are deeply personal, and often what we see, what we read may be different to what the truth actually is. 

Oscar Isaac stars as Richard, an amicable corrections officer working at a state prison. Transferred to the Human Resources department, he’s tasked with reading the incoming and outgoing letters from the prison, keeping an eye out for inappropriate discussions and illegal contraband. Whilst settling into his new role, Richard grows increasingly intrigued by a particular set of correspondences from Rosita (Alia Shawkat), to her lover Cris (Brian Petsos), a current inmate awaiting death row. Living a lonely life at home, Richard makes a habit of rereading the couple’s old letters which eventually leads him to overstep his boundaries and allow his snooping to extend to the outside world. 

At thirty-one minutes long, The Letter Room tells a condensed story but one that fits its chosen medium. This episodic chronicle may be simplistic in style but makes for a pleasant viewing. Oscar Isaac carries the film and is splendid to watch. His character is overly curious, yet well-meaning. The accompanying cast, while minor, fulfil their roles admirably also. 

Though the subject matter revolves around a death row facility, the tone of the piece is kept lighthearted, with its sunny setting and the bouncing soundtrack. Richard’s relationship with the inmates and other officers is placed at the forefront, defined by his efforts to remember birthdays, hobbies and his affability towards others regardless of their situation in life. The film addresses the prison story from at a unique angle, by crafting a narrative that forms almost a behind the scenes look into the correctional system, injecting a dose of humanity in an area that often lacks. 

An Academy Award nominee for Best Live Action Short Film, it will be interesting to see whether or not this Lind’s tale leaves a mark on the audience when the day in question arrives.

by Kacy Hogg

Kacy is an English Lit student living in the Great White North (no not Winterfell unfortunately), Canada. Her favourite films include the Harry Potter series, CinderellaCaptain America: The Winter SoldierThe Hangover, and Lady Bird. She’s also an avid binge-watcher of Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. You can follow her on Twitter here: @KacHogg95

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