Last May, Green Room premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and then played on the opening night of TIFF, under the Midnight Madness section. It was one of the many films that I missed and eventually heard incredible praise over. This film was one I’ve kept on my radar as it played at other festivals and eventually opened in the US (earlier than here in Canada), where the word of mouth has remained positive. Suffice it to say, the praise was well earned.
I’m going to keep the plot details to a minimum because I don’t want to spoil a single moment.
The film follows a punk band that barely has enough money to continue a tour they attempted to go on, which leads them to do a gig for a group of skinheads. They start their set with a cover of a Dead Kennedys song, “Nazi Punks Fuck Off”, as a joke, but the rest of their set goes without a problem until Pat (Anton Yelchin) heads back into the green room and walks in on something he shouldn’t have seen.
The director, Jeremy Saulnier, previously directed Blue Ruin (which if you haven’t seen yet, do so), and there are a few similarities (outside of a colour in the title). Both films build this dread. It is a tension that just grows and grows. Green Room in particular feels like tuning a guitar, waiting for the string to snap. And it does. When one string is done, Saulnier lets you breathe in relief before moving onto the next string and the next string.
This film is vicious, violent, and relentless. An endless barrage for the band to endure, where they’re constantly made aware that they might not be making it out alive.
While the film may be described as a bit of a slow burn, the film (and Blue Ruin as well, for that matter) finds a way to pull you into the story and engross you entirely. You are at the edge of your seat anticipating every move, wishing for their safety.
Near the beginning of the film, when the band has an interview, they are asked for their desert island band (the one band they’d be allowed to listen to while all alone on the island). All their choices fit their wheelhouse, as they’re all related to the punk genre. But, later on, they revisit the question and give their real answers. One of the band members said “Prince”, and since the screening of the film happened to be the day when Prince died, the crowd began cheering.
The film seemingly won the crowd over, as with every gruesome moment we flinched together. This is the type of film that needs to be seen on the big screen, not only due to the great visuals, but because of the crowd.
Some criticism I’ve heard is that you don’t care about the band, or that you don’t need to care for the band. While I may agree that you don’t need to care about the band, I did. And that’s because the violence is never glorified, and it’s clear that it’s not supposed to be pretty: it’s realistic and terrifying. So when the band members get hurt, you feel it. I felt it.
Green Room is the film I’m going to spend the rest of the year telling everyone I meet that they must see it. So when I bring it up, do not respond “what’s that?” tell me you saw it, and relish the fact that we saw one of the best films of the year.