The Box, written and directed by Sasha Sibley, follows a young actor, Tyler Stevens as he strives to make it big. However, not only is Tyler’s life falling apart as he struggles to land a role while earning money as an Uber driver, but he is also haunted by a recurring nightmare. Every time he falls asleep, Tyler ‘wakes up’ in an empty room which is surrounded on all sides but unbreakable mirrors. He soon discovers that the room provides him with whatever tools he wants in his ultimately futile attempts to escape the room.
As Tyler continues to audition, he becomes involved with a film called The Box which is eerily similar to the nightmare he is struggling with. Tyler naturally pursues the role in the hopes that this will be his chance to make it big. However, Tyler’s life spirals out of control as his sanity and resolve are tested at every turn.
Graham Jenkins’ performance as Tyler is fantastic. He manages to portray the desperation of a young actor trying to make it big as well as the slow descent into madness, exhaustion, and despair with great aplomb. The other characters–however–all feel a bit flat and one dimensional.
The film layers the ‘meta’ concept on quite thick as Tyler’s dream mirrors the film he is auditioning for, which is very much the film you yourself are watching. Both the fictional and actual film are called The Box and revolve around the same concept. However, while this sounds like a clever idea, it does make the film somewhat difficult to follow at times.
The most confusing aspect of the film is the different viewpoints that are all colliding at once. Not only are we following Tyler’s story, but the “director” character also frequently narrates the story, while giving insights on the structure of the story. This narration describes the story with phrases such as “it is at this point in the story that the protagonist begins to question everything he knows,” acting as an omniscient observer. However, those are not the only views we get of the story. The film is frequently interrupted by a future version of Tyler discussing the events with a psychiatrist. These varying perspectives, while meant to add insight into the film, feel rather jarring as you switch between them.
In the end, I personally felt that the resolution was not quite satisfactory, despite it actually being hinted at by a character early on in the film when discussing the merits of fame. I was still left with many questions. The film felt like it tried hard to be philosophical and a commentary on life as an actor but somehow fell short. Now, this could simply be put down to being an “either you get it or you don’t” kind of film, in which case I’d most likely fall into the latter camp.
As mentioned before, Graham Jenkins’ performance is outstanding and the production value of the film is good. Were it not for those factors, The Box, could easily have become an incomprehensible mess, but instead, it becomes a thought-provoking film that you will either love or hate. If you are up for a film that will warp your sense of what’s real or don’t mind a bit of a head-scratcher then The Box is definitely worth a watch.
Cliff ‘The Hatman’ Ekron is an avid film lover and passionate about all things supernatural, unexplained, and extraterrestrial. For more of his film-related ramblings, you can also check out https://www.uncutmedia.co.za/category/blogs/the-back-row/.