Roost Review – TIFF 2022

Roost Review - TIFF 2022 2
Roost Review - TIFF 2022 1
Director(s): Amy Redford
Actor(s): Summer Phoenix, Grace Van Dien, Kyle Gallner
Film Genre(s): Thriller
Running Time: 85 min

Roost is a hard film to unpack. Showing at TIFF 2022, the movie explores the complexities of teenage love and how it is so easily twisted. Touching on the issues of grooming, sexuality, and infatuation, Roost presents a story that is tense, uncomfortable, and complex. While not everything worked, the tense moments and final act make it a thriller with your time. 

Directed by Amy Redford, Roost tells the story of Anna (Grace Van Dien), a young 16-year-old who is on the eve of her birthday. Excited by poetry and writing, she finds herself falling for an older man she met online, named Eric. Sharing a love of the arts and able to talk for hours, she believes she has found someone truly special to her.

This is all happening as her mom Beth (Summer Phoenix) has the exciting news of being engaged to her police officer boyfriend Tim (Jesse Garcia). Everything is going as it should, with the future bright and the potential for the future is endless. The only problem: Eric is not as he seems, and the idyllic life they all live hangs by a thread. 

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Roost tackles the concept of grooming and the mental trauma caused by these types of relationships. What starts as what looks like teen romance quickly becomes much more sinister, using the styles of the romance genre to subvert expectations. Through the use of lighting, shot composition, and music, Amy Redford eases the audience in, making what could be horrible feel simply romantic. It works incredibly well to set the tone for the film, and makes the sudden switch that happens later on feel more impactful and insidious.  

Kyle Gallner brings an unhinged energy to his role as Eric. It is easy to fall for his charming awkwardness, but as more of his past is revealed, every choice and action he has taken feels more calculating and far more malicious than the film’s first half would let the audience believe. It is a great use of the tropes and style of the medium to turn expectations on their heads, and show just how serious and disturbing manipulating young love truly can be. 

Roost tackles the concept of grooming, and the mental trauma caused by these types of relationships.”

Even when you think you know everything Roost will throw at you, there is something new tossed into the mix to make you question the fabric of the film. This is a film that never lets the audience feel at ease once it gets going. There is a frantic energy and sense of foreboding that nothing can ever be okay after the events of Anna’s 17th birthday. Even the role of loving mother is thrown into the question, and Beth’s life before Tim only adds to the complex tapestry of lies, deception and trauma that has led to these hard moments.  

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Even with so many things done right, Roost is ultimately held back from being something truly special. What worked to set the tone takes away from the tension that is being built as the runtime ticks down. I fully invested myself in the story and wanted to find out what pushed Eric to this point, but when every solitary scene of him is staged against picturesque mountains and nature in his truck, I felt more SUV commercial over predator.

The same goes for the music: while the romantic soft melodies work to subvert a genre, when scenes of a man using a young woman to his own end, shot in soft focus with romantic music playing, it loses the message the film is working so hard to say.  

There is a complex story of trauma and abuse at the core of Roost that deserves to be told. These are issues many people gloss over, and seeing it front and centre is important for cinema and for culture. Sadly, the mixed messaging and odd stylistic choices later in the film hold it back and muddle what is an already complex and hard-to-talk about issue. These are stories deserving of a voice, but Roost misses the mark, leaving an interesting nail-biter that never elevates itself beyond a popcorn flick.  

Final Thoughts


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