Short Film Review: The Letter Room

In The Letter Room, a prison guard creates human connections in a place that often breaks them–Or, at least he tries. Written and Directed by Elvira Lind, The Letter Room is a short film about a prison guard who checks the letters sent to and from prisoners for potentially dangerous material. But soon, he finds himself involved with the lives of the people sending the letters. The story of an idealistic character in a realistic world The Letter Room explores the beauty of disappointment. Instead of focusing on success or failure of its characters’ goals, the film thrives by underplaying our expectations.  

The Letter Room is all about Richard (Oscar Issac). A prison guard with aspirations to change prisoner treatment, Richard is excited when he hears of a vacant position in the human relations department. But he’s soon disappointed when he finds out that the position is in the letter room. Hired to examine the letters for illegal content, Richard’s not allowed to read the letters in full. But when he skims a letter more poetic and passionate than the rest, the lonely man becomes fascinated by the correspondence and the people behind it. 

The Letter Room succeeds by challenging Richard’s idealism and praising his intentions. Though Richard’s ideas often fail, their failure endears us to his larger journey. When Richard is notified of the opening in the Human Relations department, he pitches his boss on an unlikely prison reform idea. “I just read this article on animal assisted therapy technique which I think would be really helpful for some of the inmates.” His boss isn’t interested. Working within the labyrinthine prison industrial complex, it’s surprising that Richard thinks he can make a change because he read an article. But even as his methods change, Richard’s desire to connect remains compelling.  When he discovers the letter, his goal again seems untenable and the film refuses to reward him unrealistically. But when Richard’s ideas are challenged, his intentions remain. 

The Letter Room Is available to stream on Amazon Prime via Topic

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