What do we do, when pushed to our limits? In Philip Aceto’s short film, Open House, a janitor is trying to keep it together when the pressure’s on.
Tom (Michael Rose) works as a custodian at a local Catholic school. Cleaning up the mess the basketball team made in the locker room is not Tom’s idea of a good day. In fact, the mess put him behind schedule, and his boss Janet (Carey Van Driest) will not approve the overtime needed to finish his work for the day. Citing budgetary reasons, Tom walks away frustrated and upset.
Tom soon notices what appears to be a young black, immigrant student, Adam (Roger Yawson) receiving a badge and uniform as a janitor. Tom storms in on Janet afterward, complaining that this kid is taking away his overtime hours. “Take it up with the Archdiocese, not me,” she exclaims.
“…the mess put him behind schedule, and his boss…will not approve the overtime needed to finish his work…”
As the day ends, Janet realizes tables are needed for the school open house, and Tom’s off the clock. Janet’s request for a favor leads to some quite awkward moments.
Open House is simply a portrait of a man emasculated by the struggles of life and the feelings of helplessness. The focus of Tom’s stress becomes this innocent kid, who is a refugee hired by the church. It would be easy to judge Tom for the actions he’s about to take at the kid’s expense. But are these actions taken out of deep-seated flaws that come with white privilege, or does the stress and frustration of this moment simply get the best of him? I think posing this question is the point of Aceto’s Open House. While these moments do not justify our behavior, it’s not that easy to simply condemn him for it, too.
As a short film, Aceto does a brilliant job just telling the story. He captures the levels of Tom’s frustrations solely through his camera and adds in a few awkward twists to build on that pressure. Michael Rose manages Tom’s feelings with great skill, and we’re on this emotional ride with him without Tom having to say how he feels. He just tells his story and leaves it to us to think about it.
"…captures the levels of Tom’s frustrations solely through his camera..."