The lockdown during the Covid pandemic made many of us contemplate our life choices. It gave us a lot of time to think and allowed us an opportunity to reevaluate our decisions. While such isolation can be therapeutic to a certain extent, it can be self-destructive for a prolonged period. The Immaculate Room (2022) makes its lead couple go through a similar state of isolation for 50 days, where so many of their life’s joys are taken away. This chamber drama, directed by Mukunda Michael Dewil, turns into a survival thriller within a short period.
The Immaculate Room (2022) Summary & Synopsis
Mike (Emile Hirsch) and Kate (Kate Bosworth), a seemingly happy couple enters a brightly lit, sleek room with glowing white interiors. They are supposed to spend 50 days in this space with one another for a psychological experiment. If they can stay together there for the entire period, they will be winning $10 million in total and if one of them decides to leave, the prize money will be reduced to just $1 million. They enter with hope and enthusiasm for this experiment which, for them, is an exciting contest to win and a great opportunity to improve their lives.
Staying in a room together? How hard can it be? That pretty much sums up their initial reaction. They run around like little kids while being deeply in love with one another. Kate suggests that they share the amount in two halves ($5 million for each) to which he agrees. He starts talking about all the grand plans of how he’ll utilize his half of the share. Then they start exploring the interior from the master bedroom to the bathroom, which they are told be used by just one contestant at a time. They will also be required to consume customized meals that are devoid of any taste, smell, or any kind of pleasure. Kate mentions how that is the whole point of the experiment.
At the night, when the lights are out, Mike wants to have sex with Kate, and she does not since she fears how ‘he’ (Professor Voyan, who is conducting the experiment) would be watching them. The next morning, when she enters the bathroom, she starts with affirmations – which seems like a daily ritual for her. They are still in a playful mode when he jokes about how they look like mental patients, and they take this remark in good fun. After making fun of their tasteless meal, she asks what he thinks to be the reason behind conducting this experiment. He goes on to speak about a documentary that the professor made called ‘Fame’ – where a similar experiment was conducted that didn’t turn out to be good for the participating family. He mentioned the intent behind it is the professor’s interest in the human condition, which makes Kate consider this professor to be a weirdo.
By the next day, the isolation starts getting to Mike, who starts weaving some conspiracy theories about the experiment. Through his tantrums, Kate keeps reminding him to focus on the prize money more than anything else. While on the following days, Kate also struggles to maintain her sanity, she overcomes her lapses in one way or the other and does not let it show on the surface. The mundane regularity makes Mike even speak with an insect and asks whether he can let go of an insect. But if he decides to open the doors, it would be considered as him leaving the space, which would disqualify him and bring down their prize money to $1 million. Kate stops him from leaving after which the insect gets crushed under her foot. That initiates a conversation with them about veganism and how she endorses cruelty since she eats non-vegetarian food. They have a fight on ethical terms similar to how it always happens – on the basis of cruelty in non-vegetarian intake, fad about the vegan lifestyle – in relation to their social positions outside.
Later, getting bored by the mundane life inside, he decides to take a treat that costs him $100,000. He receives a green crayon and since he is an artist, he starts drawing with it on the white walls. Kate asks him to draw her portrait. She wants it to be lifelike while he prefers the style of cubism. They have a fight where he speaks about his interest in this different style while she criticizes him saying how it’s not that he doesn’t want to draw lifelike pictures, but that he can’t. After a few days, they find a gun lying on their bathroom basin, which scares Kate. Mike mentions how it would be placed just to mess up with their heads. Meanwhile, they are told that they are not allowed to keep it in their wardrobe which is why they throw it under their bed.
They see video recordings of their family members speaking to them about their experience inside. Mike’s sister speaks with him with a peppy freshness but when Kate receives a call from her father, she runs away since she does not wish to see or listen to him speak. Later, she mentions to Mike how difficult her life was made by the same alcoholic father. Day by day, he starts getting more and more paranoid which is why Kate tells him to ask for another treat. To their surprise, the next treat happens to be a woman called Simone (Ashley Greene) who enters the room completely naked, which frustrates Kate. Simone tells them that she is an actress who has been given this role to ad lib with them while living with them inside. Kate tells Mike to give Simone his shirt to cover her up.
Later, at night, they fall into a conundrum about how they’ll sleep. While Mike offers to sleep on the floor, Simone tells him not to do so since it’s a concrete floor. In the end, Kate advises that all of them sleep on the bed together. After this strange night, Kate decides to get a treat herself where she receives ecstasy. While she consumes one pill, she shares another with Simone. She doesn’t want Mike to take it, but due to Simone’s persistence, he decides to take it. They go through an intense head trip after which he starts hallucinating that he is drowning in deep waters. Kate wakes him from this terrifying trip after which she & Simone try to comfort him. The nightmarish trip was in reference to his brother – Shawn. She mentions to Simone how he is not over the trauma of not being able to save him since he was high at the time. In the night, Mike has a conversation with Simone who was still awake when he opens up about Shawn. While he was vulnerable, they hold hands and Kate finds them like that. She gets angry after which she and Simone start fighting about him and about his need to speak about these issues. Frustrated by this, Mike tries to shut them up by shouting.
The Immaculate Room (2022) Review:
A shallow drama & a mediocre psychological thriller
Written and directed by Mukunda Michael Dewil, whose earlier works are action thrillers, The Immaculate Room shows his venture into the psychological drama genre with an unassured footing. The script uses several tropes of survival thrillers to make it engaging throughout its one-and-a-half-hour runtime. The reason why it would keep you invested is because of the great central performances by Emile Hirsch and Kate Bosworth, who elevate the drama and make us empathize with their characters.
However, the writing is a surface-level exploration of relationships at best that just happens to be inside the sleek, white walls. The sleekness and the whiteness become effective due to the excellent cinematography of Rasa Partin and his team. The terror brought within the confines is a feat that they achieve with finesse. Yet that doesn’t stop the film from being a tiresome parade of relationship drama clichés. It almost seems borne out of the lockdown fatigue where several partners needed to reevaluate their romantic relationships since they had so much time on their hands and very little choice of things to do.
The Immaculate Room is a stretch of the same notions, where limitations bring out the worst in people – especially in today’s age where the closeness of any kind or confrontation can be avoided by the distraction of a myriad of electronic gadgets – when a dissatisfaction can be gulped down with a drink of pleasure. The removal of such distractions makes Mike and Kate confront the things that bother them about each other from the outside – the things that they rather avoid speaking about. It is ironic how knowing one another better can actually ruin a relationship than improve it.
What the script does with this idea is nothing exceptional since it does not delve deeper into these issues and ends up being perfunctory. It fails at being stimulating since it limits its class-related or trauma-related discussions on a basic level. Besides that, the script only focuses on the couple’s faults and misgivings while giving hardly any attention to the cruel experiment itself. The lack of development on these ideas leaves it miles apart from being a scathing document of anything that it builds its narrative upon. The Immaculate Room, as a result of all of this, remains to be a largely unsatisfying attempt.
The Immaculate Room (2022) Ending Explained:
Do Mike & Kate get the grand prize?
In the morning after Simone leaves, Kate finds a note written on one of the walls of Simone professing her love for Mike. Fueled by anger, she starts pushing him which throws him over a wall, and due to an injury, he starts bleeding. After a minute or two when his bleeding shows signs of stopping, she displays relief. He gets angry saying how she does not care for him and how she is doing everything just for the money. She mentions how easy it is to say that when you always had money.
Mike decides to leave after this incident and while Kate threatens to kill him by pointing a gun at his head, he still leaves. According to the rules, the prize money then drops down to $1 million and Kate is now all alone in the immaculate room. Not so long after his departure, she goes near the red buzzer that she is supposed to tap on to get outside. But the scene is cut before she actually touches it. Cut to and we see Mike from outside going on a run. He stumbles upon Kate on his way, and it becomes clear that they haven’t met for a while after the experiment. He asks whether she finished the experiment, and she diverts his attention back to him.
What does the donation board at the end mean?
The camera then moves to show a board about St. Merry’s kitchen made possible because of an anonymous donation. This seems to be a sign saying that she invested all the money she received into this. If not, showing this sign with the mention of donation serves no purpose. After this, we see another 30-something couple entering the immaculate room where the female partner mentions how their arrival in this room is going to change everything. The belief that a grand sum is easy to earn from this experiment is what this part of the ending depends on – which obviously seems naïve considering the previous couple’s experience inside the room.