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Rum (2022)

I love sitting down with a glass of nice, smoky whiskey. It doesn’t matter if I’m alone or with friends, out at the bar or sitting by an open fire–the taste and ultimately the feeling of slowly sipping that glass of whiskey is unparalleled. That same sense of relaxation and nirvana can come to some via beer, wine, and even Rum. However, there’s another side to this experience–and that’s the hangover–and for some, alcohol is used as a crutch. When a man (Daniel Berkey) sits down with a glass of rum, he experiences something unique. To some his experience may be terrifying, and for others a dream come true. This is his story–but beware, experiences may differ.

The song “Blackbird” by Nina Simone plays throughout the entirety of Rum, and it sets the tone, guides the narrative, and gives the protagonist a reason to get up and move. There is a short moment when Berkey’s character stands up and joins a woman (Rebecca Berner) in dance. The dancing is strange, even uncomfortable. I’ve mentioned before that I’m often unsure of how to react to people singing in films, and the dancing present in Rum made me feel the same way. I’m no expert on dancing, but I’d venture to guess that someone knowledgeable on the subject wouldn’t consider this dancing to be good. Interestingly, however, given the purpose of the dancing–which appears to be an emotional release–it’s certainly not bad. It serves its purpose–but it’s a tad awkward nonetheless (and I feel like this is intentional). Music can always play a pivotal role in filmmaking, and the decision to use the song “Blackbird” allows the tone of the film to reach viewers and remain steady throughout.

Viewers get no dialogue in Rum, and not really much of anything to provide them a definitive explanation for what is occurring. Viewers get the aforementioned music, a silent and emotional performance from Berkey, and an interestingly bright visual as rum is poured over rocks. Berkey is tasked with conveying emotion with nothing more than his body–and while body language can sometimes be easy enough to read, fabricating body language to match a certain emotion is a tall task. There are three consecutive lines in the song that read “Cause your mama’s name was lonely / And your daddy’s name was pain / And he called you little sorrow.” As these three lines are belted out by the talented Simone, Berkey matches the words “lonely,” “pain,” and “sorrow” with his facial expressions and body language. He allows these sentiments to come to life and to be fully present and understood.

The third element present in Rum is the strange, but beautiful shine of the rum as it’s poured into a glass over rocks. At first the aesthetic appeared odd to me, because it doesn’t look as if the liquid being poured into the glass is actually rum (I’m not expecting actual alcohol to be used on set, but the look of whatever is being used as a placeholder needs to mirror the real thing). This is my one complaint of the entire film. However, the brightness of the alcohol in Rum, regardless of whether it looks like the real thing or not, is a reflection of its purpose in the film. The fact that, through the darkness of the film, the alcohol shines so brightly expresses to viewers that it’s being used to heal something, to fix something that the man is struggling with. Looking something like a magical elixir, the alcohol, in all of its beauty, touches viewers emotionally–and shining a light on this aspect of the film was a brilliant decision by Writer-Director Abdool Saud.

Four minutes is all that is needed to reach viewers in a deeply emotional way. Rum is full of passion and heart, and, while it’s incredibly cryptic and mysterious in its approach, I think it makes so much sense. It’s powerful and honest, and every aspect comes together to create something magnificent. The delectable song choice, the impeccable acting, and the brilliance of the alcohol’s aesthetic make Rum everything that it needs to be–and the perfect dissection of the human mind.

Written & Directed by Abdool Saud.

Starring Daniel Berkey & Rebecca Berner.




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