If you’re weary of lockdown, you’ll identify with the plight of Sarah, heroine of 1BR. The sweet one bedroom crib she’s scored seems great, but the neighbors are a little sketchy. That means a quiet, tense psychological thriller is in store for viewers. Even though Sarah doesn’t get out much once the story gets rolling.
This is a case where filmmakers couldn’t have anticipated the coronavirus crisis when 1BR was in production, but it’s landing just in time to provide an intense metaphor for the moment.
Sarah (Nicole Brydon Bloom) has just moved to L.A. and landed a temp gig to tide her over as she pursues her dream job: costume design. The consideration she displays for an elderly resident (Susan Davis) at an apartment complex open house catches the eye of Jerry the Manager. That’d be veteran actor Taylor Nichols displaying a church-youth-minister level of compassion and concern. Maybe Jerry has just a little too much warmth?
This place has one opening, a strong sense of community, and it looks like Sarah is the right choice even though they don’t allow pets. As a plus for her, there’s a hot guy (Giles Matthey) a couple of doors down.
The drawbacks turn up shortly after move-in with notes slipped under her door complaining about her cat Giles. A creepy guy with weird glasses (Clayton Hoff) has an eye, you’ll see, on Sarah too, and he tries to push a cultish tome her way. It’s all about the importance of community. It’s penned by a guy whose author photo looks like his name ought to be L. Ron. Then there are noises at night leading to sleep deprivation, and Sarah’s Zoloft runs out as she clashes by phone with her dad. The two have issues.
With her resolve diminished, the really brutal phase begins. Of course the nice folks like Jerry and the hot neighbor are concealing true purposes and natures behind a dark veil.
Sarah is in for a brutal and escalating rise of mind-control and discipline-building techniques.The film harnesses real indoctrination styles viewers will recognize if they’re familiar with, say, Leah Remini’s experience with Scientology, and it’s possible to feel Sarah’s pain as things go from terrible to even darker.
It’s all kept interesting in part because Sarah is a quiet and troubled introvert. That’s why she was chosen, and it means she’s not a quickly-resistant warrior. She must endure and hope. Bloom does a good job with sometimes stoic and sometimes detached despair. This can’t last forever, can it? Twists, turns and surprises are in store.
1BR has gained festival praise and other deserved kudos. It taps into a trapped and terrifying vibe as shutdown ticks on.
Wicked Rating: 9/10
Director: David Marmor
Writer: David Marmor
Starring: Nicole Brydon Bloom, Taylor Nichols, Giles Matthey, Clayton Hoff, Susan Davis.
Release: April 24, 2020 (Digital)
Runtime: 90 minutes