The Fly Room: A Technical Yet Artful Representation of Working in the Scientific Field

For more about The Fly Room click here.
This is a quick review of the film.

Spoilers for The Fly Room below. Tread carefully.

I recently had the opportunity to watch a film called The Fly Room. It was a narrative based on a real group of scientists who were part of Thomas Hunt Morgan’s labs: Sturtevant, Muller, and Bridges. Calvin Bridges is considered one of the great pioneers of genetic studies with his work with the Drosophila Melanogaster (aka the fruit fly). These men are credited with mapping out genes on a chromosome (gene-linkage). The film manages to depict these events through the relationship Betsey had with her father Calvin Bridges. In fact, The Fly Room, both written and directed by Alexis Gambis, hinges on this central relationship to set up the conceit. It very much feels as though we are watching someone’s memories play out on screen. The stress of the work sometimes getting to Calvin, he would yell at his coworkers (clearly overreacting). However, other instances describe him as someone more compassionate and likeable. A lighthearted moment in the film occurs when he shows his daughter the fruit fly dance.

The film does well to weave the technical detail into its structure. This is not to say an uninformed member of the audience wouldn’t be able to enjoy it. Rather, it is the father-daughter dynamic that is telegraphed over the 83 minutes that makes for a compelling narrative. There are several cameos of real-life scientists in the film. However, their acting skill doesn’t detract from the scenes they’re in, but rather enhances it. It’s one of the subtleties that pleasantly surprised me. The scientific details aren’t hamfisted, rather Gambis makes use of the young Betsey to illustrate the advancements brought forth by Bridges such as a cheaper fly food mix among other things.

In a sense, disillusionment may very well be one of the major themes of Gambis’ film. He successfully manages to paint a heralded figure in the gray shade more apt to reality. There are no villains or heroes in this narrative; just the presentation of the duality of one of our well-regarded ‘heroes’. We may tend to remember accomplished individuals for their greatest achievements and contributions to their field of work. Unfortunately, due to that, we tend to lose sight of the fact that they are human. And humans make mistakes.

Overall, it was a pretty interesting film.

To read more about the real Fly Room, click here.


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