4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Control. Alter. Delete,
This review is from: Chatroom [DVD]  (DVD)Hideo Nakata takes a very simple idea, that of online interaction between people and turns it into something sinister with this film and targeting the angst-ridden, emotionally-charged teens of London he manages to put together a well thought-out and compelling film which whilst not perfect was still an effective British thriller with plenty going for it. A Film 4 production and funded by The National Lottery the small cast of 5 lead characters each have their own reasons for seeking solace online and we are given an insight into their lives whilst at the same time are witness to the Machiavellian behind-the-scenes manipulation by William brilliantly portrayed by Aaron Johnson.
Johnson is excellent in Chatroom it has to be said, he puts in a believable performance as William and commands your attention in the scenes he features. A sociopathic character seemingly without conscience he has his own reasons for being the way he is and time is spent getting to know him and his back-story. Whilst not a sympathetic character by any stretch of the imagination his offline persona and personal life do give an insight into why he acts the way he does and provides an explanation for how intelligent and manipulative he is to be able to wield such power over other people.
Equally impressive is Jim played by Matthew Beard, a shy, introverted character haunted by an event from his childhood and unable to shake off the past. He finds it hard to make friends and seeks an outlet for his loneliness by spending time online, he is drawn to the Chelsea Teens! Chatroom believing that he is making friends with like-minded people and needs the support of people his own age. It's a slow breakdown that Jim goes through, aided and nudged along by William and Beard gives a heartbreaking performance which you can't help but sympathise with. The other 3 characters are important to the plot and need to be there but are somewhat superficially developed so end up not taking too much of the focus away from William and Jim.
Other reviewers of this film described the acting as 'hammy' and I do have to agree with them especially in the opening quarter of the film. There are times when the dialogue comes across as being 'forced' and doesn't seem to flow naturally and for a while I did struggle to fully buy into the film finding myself losing interest in the early set-up scenes. This I put down to the decision to film the online conversations as if they were taking place in a real life room and it does take a while to get used to seeing the characters speak to one another as if they were having a real life conversation when in fact their dialogue is actually written and they were interacting with one another virtually. It is an almost surreal experience watching the film at times as when the characters are not speaking they sit in silence and stare at one another, sometimes they fade away (as if they have gone offline) and then re-appear moments later. Often times the physically represented chatroom cuts to the characters communicating via thier laptops and mobile phones and for me this gave it quite a disjointed and jarring feel. I can't say I actually liked this approach to be honest and I don't think it quite worked really but I suppose the director had to try and make these scenes more interesting than watching the characters type out their conversations so made the decision to film them as if they were really speaking to one another. I do think that unless you are willing to see the film out to the end and take a chance with it then some will give up with it at least half way through as it never really feels 'right' and you do need to concentrate very hard in places to actually follow what is happening as the editing can be quite jumpy and confusing at times.
Overall though if you are willing to commit to the film then the payoff at the end should be well worth the time you give it as the final sequence is good and the acting from all concerned is excellent by then. I still think the whole concept of Chatroom manipulation is an interesting one and being the age I am I do remember the times when they were unrestricted and could often be terrifying places to visit especially when I was young and naive. The film could have been a lot darker than it is and even though it deals with the hard-hitting subject matter of Teen suicide a lot of the impact is lost due to the bold film making decisions made by the director. I can't fault the characters of William and Jim though, both are excellent and the film is well worth watching just for the scenes that feature these two talented actors but now that I have seen the film I don't think it would be one that I would want to re-watch again in the future and I wouldn't describe it as an urgent 'must-see'.
To conclude then Chatroom is certainly a good film, the acting is terrific at times and I did like the concept and premise of the story. The film-making decisions do detract from the story though and at times I did find my attention wandering away but overall I would recommend the film especially if you can pick up a cheap copy.