Review: Orangutan

Written and directed by Frankie Gaddo, an aspiring social worker brings together five peculiar strangers to help solve their existential problems but finds herself in way over her head. Starring: Jan Kamar, Brent Baird, Mike D. Smith, Caro Coltman, Teresa Greco, Olivia Grubic and Mat Holmlund.

The world can be an intensely cynical place and can find things to push you down at every corner, so it’s no wonder that optimistic, generous people want to try and help uplift others in anyway they can. Enter Siara (Jan Kamar), our would-be social worker who has brought together an eclectic group to try and let some light into their lives, it’s an admirable and generous thing to do. It’s also a good way to set up a story because we all know that putting a group of strangers together in a small room means that anything can happen. The story does have a few unexpected elements to throw at its audience but at the same time it struggles to build a solid progression or pacing. It doesn’t use reveals or layers to its advantage, while there are some present, they’re not placed to push things forward and intensify, it all stays on the same note. Resulting in that, while it does have a good foundation and potential, it can’t quite see it through.

With this type of story you are inherently limiting yourself with visual options, taking place almost entirely in one room. Especially in a room that has so little detail or colour, it’s intentional but at the same time it’s leaning into that limitation, rather than being used to close things in and add a trapped type feeling. The atmosphere doesn’t have enough variety to enhance the story, it’s calling out for the direction and editing to pull more tension or suspense through but it’s sadly not there. On top of which it makes a very bold choice to end the film with over ten minutes of preconstructed time lapse footage and while its likely intention is to show how fast life goes by and to take chances, it’s too indulgent. It leaves things on an odd note and doesn’t feel like a satisfying ending to the story, more so that it falls into convention and sentimentality.

The performances on the other hand do exactly what they need to, it’s a strange mix of characters and they each have an individual personality to add. Jan Kamar and Mat Holmlund fit into more stereotypical boxes, they’re optimistic and fairly plain, there’s not a huge amount of energy. Caro Coltman brings a cantankerous, feisty feel which is always good to add some conflict. Mike D. Smith hits that classically unlikable button and Olivia Grubic holds a lot of youthful charisma and positivity. Brent Baird provides a little unpredictability, he’s not totally a wildcard but he can shake things up a little. It’s a solid group, they don’t really have to dive too deep and dig into sincere emotional territory but they are convincing.

Orangutan has a nice concept of bringing people together to try and improve their lives but there ultimately isn’t enough to sustain it. It kicks off on the right foot but needs to bring through a higher level of tension or drama to up the stakes and hold your attention. It does have inklings but they’re fairly sporadic and not paced well enough to give the tone more variety. Visually it’s again much on the same level throughout, then makes an out of left field choice for its ending which unfortunately comes across overly self-indulgent rather than serving the story.

Verdict: ✯✯ | 4/10

Available now on VOD & streaming – Click here to find out where you can watch it

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