Adrian Roman’s feature film, Oak on the Outside, covers a wide range of subjects, but in the end, can love conquer all? Our story opens with very real facts about child sex trafficking: thousands of children go missing each year, sold into sexual slavery, and very few are ever found alive again.
Oak on the Outside stars Gaia Passaler as Rebecca, a gifted Ph.D. student who would rather immerse herself in her studies than have a personal life. She is making significant strides in a new form of therapy for those with PTSD and insists that her professor put her out in the field to test it. Reluctantly, Professor Graves (Treg Monty) sends Rebecca to a ranch to work on former military captain Eli Stone (Brandon Scott Hughes), who has severe PTSD from his military service.
Unfortunately, when Rebecca gets there, Eli is nowhere to be found. So, instead, she strikes up a friendship with a young teen, Skylar (Julie Howell), who was once kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery. Colonel Chafee (Scott James), who runs the ranch, was the one who rescued Sky and now allows her to work there for room and board.
Here, Oak on the Outside begins to turn into a harlequin romance with a psychological thriller twist. It appears that Colonel Chafee is more than a rancher, but instead, he is a vigilante who targets sex traffickers in the area. Eli, who eventually shows back up, is one of his soldiers and more than willing to exact a violent kind of justice.
“…forms a sort of psychic connection with her client, delivering a moment of clarity for them to confront their trauma.”
Rebecca’s therapy involves holding out her hands and touching her palms with her clients. She then forms a sort of psychic connection with her client, delivering a moment of clarity for them to confront their trauma. This also gives Rebecca a brief glimpse into their memories of trauma. Still in the research phase, her work appears to be effective until she has a seductive dream involving Eli. On the other hand, Eli has been suppressing his trauma for so long that when Rebecca barely opens a small portion of his past, he goes into retreat.
With numerous storylines and issues being addressed, Oak on the Outside falls squarely in the romance genre using highly charged issues to spur on and intensify Rebecca’s ultimate feelings for Captain Stone. At one point, Rebecca has to break down her doctor/client privilege when she finds herself in danger, which threatens the secret mission of Colonel Chaffee. Eli also struggles with losing control of his seemingly calm temperament.
The heavenly synthesized music and Rebecca’s very erotic dreams pretty much scream romance. It’s arguable to say that there is too much going on plotwise — sex trafficking, PTSD, controversial therapy, a romance between doctor/client, and vigilantism. It sure seems like a lot, but writer/director Roman is able to keep his narrative together and focus on telling Rebecca’s story. At the same time, simple is almost always better.
In her first feature role, Passaler understands her role as Rebecca well within the genre. Yes, a lot is coming at the character, but the actor stays true to her arc and the surrounding issues involving sex trafficking and PTSD. My only qualm is with the therapy methods Rebecca employs. I don’t know if this is a real and serious therapy, but it sometimes felt overly New Age.
Oak on the Outside will appeal to fans of the romance genre. Of course, you will have to suspend your disbelief, but that’s pretty much on par for the genre.
Oak on the Outside is currently available on major Video-On-Demand platforms.
"…sex trafficking, PTSD, controversial therapy, a romance between doctor/client, and vigilantism."