by Ken B.
What attempts to be, I don’t know, a commentary on cyberbullying, absent families, homophobia, and digital friendships turns out to be a cartoonish and messy affair, as Jan Komasa’s Suicide Room falls apart, crumbling from a promising start. I watched this movie on recommendation from a friend, granted it was a friend I knew in middle school, a few years ago. Now having remembered the title, and finally getting around to watching it, I wonder if this movie works better if one is thirteen, and wouldn’t realize the full extent of its missteps and heightening screech of almost-theres, painstakingly elevated by solid acting before being superbly let down. It’s a bizarrely structured, and as a result, bizarrely flawed film.
Dominik (Jakub Gierszał) is a student who just turned eighteen. His mother (Agata Kulesza) is a business executive and his father (Krzysztof Pieczyński) is a government adviser, so while he lives comfortably, his parents are largely distracted and can’t be construed as particularly attentive. At a dance, a drunken dare leads to video surfacing online of Dominik kissing another boy. While everyone else brushes it off as a joke, our secretly gay protagonist enjoyed it on an actual level. This event soon spirals into his inadvertent outing, leading to an ostracization which proves significantly overwhelming. But he finds refuge – while surfing the web one night, he discovers a small-but-dedicated online community of similarly reclusive individuals. The site is called the Suicide Room, and they create avatars and communicate in a 3D CGI environment, often discussing their mortality and watching the many self-harm or suicide videos that populate the Internet. As Dominik continues to shut himself out of the outside world, his life disintegrates as his depression pushes him deeper into this mysterious place.
Suicide Room mistakes caricatures for characters, with everyone in the plot seemingly defined by only a handful of traits, triggering a predictable rhythm which is spectacularly uninvolving – Dominik is depressive, his parents are workaholics, and the denizen of the Suicide Room are perpetually blank. Lather, rinse, and repeat for 110 minutes. At least Komasa’s screenplay doesn’t pretend to change its tone or become unrealistically optimistic – without spoiling too much, I will say that the film ends in the only way it really could. The third act also allows for some of Gierszał’s best work in the entire movie, capping off a complex performance which, in terms of nuance, far exceeds the script he’s given. Similarly proficient is Kulesza as Dominik’s mother. Indeed, Komasa is successful at directing his actors, but comes up detrimentally short in the story department, turning what could have been a disorienting and dread-filled descent into the horrifying effects of bullying and unsupported emotions into something simply disjointed and disappointing.
P.S.: While Suicide Room is a fairly bad film, it reminds us that suicide is a prevalent problem in society. If you need support or someone to talk to, find the appropriate resources here.