One Girl, One Bedroom, Four Stars

Main Cast: Nicole Brydon Bloom and Taylor Nichols

Director: David Marmor

Know what I hate about where I have lived for the past 24 years?  The neighbors.  And there’s nothing WRONG with them, the couple across the street stick to themselves, as does the old woman who lives next to them.  The guy across the street from me however—I have a corner lot—I could do without and the people directly next door to me?  They gotta go.

And this isn’t exclusive to them, I say that any time someone new moves in next door.  Because I just don’t want people that close.  So when I started watching writer/director David Marmor’s 1BR and main character Sarah (Nicole Brydon Bloom, The Affair) is moving into her new apartment and meeting all the neighbors and there’s a community cookout where all the people living in her complex are in attendance and everyone’s saying hi … nah, I’m good.  That is totally not the place I want to live.

Sarah, however, is new to LA, having left her estranged father and his new wife behind to pursue her dreams of being a fashion designer, and she’s not like me.  Where the new co-worker, Lisa, offers to introduce Sarah to all the people in the office my response would have been, “I’m good.”  When new neighbor Brian invites Sarah over for a dinner party, I would have already had plans that weren’t really plans I just didn’t want to go.

And then we hit act two and the truth of this apartment complex is revealed and that’s where, for me personally, the real horror begins.

I’m not sure how to get into the heart of 1BR without totally spoiling it, so I’ll just have to go ahead and do it.  However, you might want to NOT read this review(?) and watch the movie instead because it’s a good movie and is probably even better if you go in not knowing what’s going on like I did.

And that’s not to say that knowing will ruin the movie for you; it’s still a very well-made and well-acted movie, very suspenseful and interesting.  But still … do you REALLY want it spoiled before you watch?

Well, alright, if you insist, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Spoilers ahead.

Turns out the apartment complex is a cult that places community first, through a series of four rules—which I wish I remembered but I don’t, so sorry—that emphasize just that: community.  There are no secrets in the community and everyone does their part.  The goal of this community is to change the world by making us ALL part of one community.  But first, there’s Sarah to contend with and she’s not quite ready to give up her newly-attained independence.

So, she must be broken.

The entire second act of 1BR, Sarah’s indoctrination, plays like a montage scene, one long long montage scene spanning we don’t even know how much time, but it’s done so in a way that doesn’t seem light or dismissive.  I do wish it had been a bit more brutal, but when I say that, trust me, it’s pretty bad what Sarah undergoes.  But, it’s a movie, I think they could have done more.

Also, here’s the problem with stories like this where the main character is the one being brainwashed: we know as the audience that, in order to have a satisfying conclusion to this story, we can’t REALLY allow our “heroine” to fall in line.  The cult members are the antagonists which means that, for Sarah to REALLY buy into what they’re selling, she would also become an antagonist for someone else’s story, and that’s just now how you make a character people root for.  So, clearly, we the audience can’t really buy that Sarah has given in.

We need to believe she’s playing along until she finds the right moment she can make her escape, and unfortunately Marmor and Bloom both give us just enough to be pretty certain that’s exactly what she’s doing.  Which is all well and good for Sarah, but it does diminish the tension a bit.  It’s like if in the Star Wars prequels we’d ever thought Obi Wan was in any real danger … of course not, he’s alive and well in episode 4, clearly he lives.  Same principle here, Sarah is the hero of this story, obviously they’re not going to actually brainwash the main character.

What’s more likely is just what we suspect, she’s playing along until she finds her chance, then she’s out the door, running into the night.

But it’s in those final moments where Marmor plays the ace in his sleeve and gives you an ending you definitely did not see coming, but one that plays so well I wish I’d thought of it so I could predict it, and shows us Sarah rediscovering the strength she came into the story with, strength we were supposed to think she had lost.  It’s a nice moment and I love the way it was shot, a great image to go out on.

The trailers I had watched for 1BR gave away very little, which is great for a story like this, but also those same trailers hyped it up to be something of a new cult classic.  I wouldn’t go THAT far, but it is a movie I enjoyed and can easily recommend.  I’m not sure I would label it HORROR, necessarily, but it’s definitely a thriller with some good suspense and a few “what the fuck just happened” moments.

1BR is currently streaming on Netflix.

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