The reason these moments are so flimsy is that most of 1BR plays out like a grounded, plausible tale. Marmor’s screenplay peppers just enough realistic technology and conditioning techniques to come across as not only credible but frighteningly realistic. Couple that with the excellent, well-drawn characters and the thriller unnerves almost from the start. The sound design is crucial to maintaining that atmosphere and is stellar on all fronts. The creaking of the pipes is eerie, the odd shuffling noises in the hallway at night are discombobulating, and the alarm for the conditioning is disturbing. All of this adds up to envelope the viewer in subtle but effective ways. As such, the audience completely understands why Sarah is unable to rest at night properly and becomes so distractible throughout the day.
While the cinematography, by David Bolen, never quite reaches the same heights as its masterful opening – elongated, smooth shots gliding through the apartment complex as the neighbors are hanging out, helping out with chores, etc. – the colors and lighting are to die for throughout. This is especially true as 1BR builds towards its frenzied climax. Plus, their shots at night that are not too dark to make out properly. How rare is that?
“…not only credible but frighteningly realistic.”
It helps that the acting is incredible. Nicole Brydon Bloom is perfectly cast as Sarah. Her shyness yet utter resolve both shine through in equal measure. Matthey’s good looks and sweet deposition are nicely spun on their head, as the true depths of his cruelty (not that the cult sees it as such), are revealed as the movie continues. As Lester, Clayton Hoff is excellent. At first, he is a little creepy and off-putting, but as he becomes a more prominent presence, Hoff brings a sad resignation to the surface that speaks volumes to how the character views his future. Absolutely everybody in the cast does an outstanding job, no matter how minor the role.
Of course, it is the blind following and total control of the apartment cult that imbues 1BR with both its scares and intelligence. Marmor’s focus on one person being converted allows the audience to see just how far such organizations go to make you depend on them. It is a scary thought that is well explored here. Though, I do wish the world was expanded upon just a bit more. Gleaning more information about how the school at the complex itself is run, or why pets aren’t allowed, would only add layers to the already deep well the movie explores. Please don’t take that as a complaint, as the movie left me wanting more, which is a good thing.
1BR has a lot to say about what a person is willing to sacrifice to be happy and if said sacrifice is worth it. It does so effectively and intensely, with a smart script, a few plotholes aside, and excellent directing. The acting across the board is terrific, and the culmination of Sarah’s tumultuous journey during the berserk ending is well worth taking.
"…what does a perfect society look like to you?"