A young man searches for answers in this loose adaptation of the Kadokawa Games title that originated from Japan.
Sarah Blake is a young high school student who has been given an assignment. She must write a letter to a penpal without giving personal information. Her penpal in Carlos, a troubled young man who tries to get his life together after being viciously beaten. As Sarah and Carlos begin to write to each other, the two slowly bond. That is, until Sarah gives Carlos a letter about her involvement in killing someone. He soon stops getting letters from her, prompting him to do something he never imagined.
As Carlos begins to track down people and areas where Sarah may have been, flashbacks begin to slowly reveal about Sarah. The daughter of a junkie, Sarah had a close inner circle of friends, including Zoe, Caleb, and Jackson. While Caleb has a crush, Sarah’s route of happiness comes through her letters to Carlos. After a party, Sarah meets a couple whose daughter went missing and take Sarah in when things would go bad. Jackson finds an opportunity, and something goes very wrong, which leads Sarah to go to drastic measures. As Carlos slowly begins to learn the truth, he is determined to find out what exactly happened to Sarah.
Based on a 2016 PlayStation game, this Americanized adaptation takes the core plot and does something very interesting in terms of its characters. The cast here are comprised of characters that are flawed and human. When one sees an adaptation of a video game, they would expect some sort of superpowered character in some way. However, this is the most human adaptation of a video game, considering it is based on a game about the disappearance of a high school student and her penpal determined to get answers.
The cast is excellent in this film. Top Gun: Maverick’s Danny Ramirez is aces as Carlos, our protagonist who is determined to get the truth about what happened to his penpal. When he is introduced in the films opening scene, he is seen with a young woman until he is beaten to a pulp by the girl’s father and ends up in the hospital. He promises his father he would do right and finds some sort of happiness when he receives letters from his penpal Sarah, played by a wonderful Keana Marie.
We see most of Marie’s Sarah through flashbacks that juxtapose Carlos’ search for her. Kudos goes to Lydia Hearst, who is amazing as Sarah’s junkie mother Karen. Karen wants to find solace in her daughter, but the drugs always get the best of her. Her inner circle of friends are quite a mixed bag. Kate Edmonds as Zoe seems to be Sarah’s bestie while Breon Pugh’s Caleb is the likable fellow who seems to have a little crush on her. However, it is Sam Coleman’s Jackson, Zoe’s boyfriend, who is the master manipulator as it is he who comes up with the idea that eventually leads to Sarah’s disappearance. Terry J. Nelson and Dodie Brown are great as the couple who take Sarah in as a “surrogate daughter” when their own daughter disappears.
Root Letter is a gripping film adaptation of a video game that will make you watch as if you are playing the video game itself. The characters are very human, a major plus for an adaptation, who all churn out excellent performances.
WFG RATING: A-
Entertainment Squad presents an Ammo Entertainment production. Director: Sonja O’Hara. Producers: Annmarie Sairrino, Moeko Suzuki, and Kat McPhee. Writer: David Ebeltoft; based on the video game from Kadokawa Games. Cinematography: Dan McBride. Editing: Stephanie Filo.
Cast: Danny Ramirez, Keana Marie, Lydia Hearst, Kate Edmonds, Mark St. Cyr, Breon Pugh, Sam Coleman, Terry J. Nelson, Dodie Brown.