“We can get him online”
After watching The Nether at the Royal Court, a chat with a colleague about other plays that effectively depict the internet threw up Enda Walsh’s Chatroom which played at the National Theatre a few years back (and featured both Doctor Who (Matt Smith) and Spiderman (Andrew Garfield) in its cast. It was slightly before my time of insane theatre-going so I was glad to see that I could catch a film version, adapted by Walsh himself and directed by Japanese maestro Hideo Nakata.
The story concerns five teenagers in various states of unhappiness who find succour in online chatrooms. Disillusioned model Eva, anti-depressant taker Jim, unhappy daughter Emily and inappropriately flirtatious Mo are swept up by highly-functioning sociopath and self-harmer William in a room he’s created called Chelsea Teens! At first they just talk smack about those they don’t like but William soon manipulates them into acting on their feelings, with devastating consequences.
I don’t know how it was staged in the theatre but I loved what Nakata has done to delineate between the online and offline worlds that the teens inhabit. When they enter the chatroom, Nakata has them enter a room in a gloriously technicolour old-school hotel and so gives life to the meaning that these interactions have to them which could be so easily dismissed as not significant since they’re not IRL. By contrast, Benoît Delhomme’s cinematography makes that real life dull by comparison.
The division is stark indeed and compellingly so as William’s machinations take hold on the more suggestible others – Aaron Taylor-Johnson possesses just the right charisma that makes him dangerously appealing with Matthew Beard’s especially haunted Jim a standout. Imogen Poots is persuasive as Eva, who slowly comes to realise how insidious William really is and there’s good support elsewhere from Michelle Fairly and Nicholas Gleaves as various parents. A convincing portrait of how the internet can be appalling misused.