Runs at Northwest Film Forum, Tues., Oct. 3–Thurs., Oct. 5. Not rated. 75 minutes.

Bingo represents escape for some people, but for an ordinary Houston woman (Cyndi Williams), it's just another form of psychic slavery. In territory straight out of Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed, Julia has to hawk bingo cards, deliver phone books, beg for her paychecks, and otherwise struggle to support her family. Her bingo parlor co-worker wears a T-shirt inspired by the milk slogan: "Got pain?" Oh, yes, Julia does—a pain of the soul that merely sneaking cigarettes won't salve. She's on a kind of strip-mall quest for spiritual transcendence, triggered by possibly epileptic visions of a water- dripping empty loft she's never seen or visited. (Sounds like J-horror; isn't.)

Drawn to a numinous indescribable something, Julia ventures to New York, where she might seem just another sad psychotic on the subway, someone to be medicated, institutionalized, or abused. Yet the micro-budget Room resists any obvious outcome to her vague mission (admittedly a test of your patience). She has a few adventures in the city, some even slightly comic, but the woman keeps her serious purpose to the end. Hardly the heroine of your average indie, middle-aged Julia leaves us to wonder whether she's demented, ill, holy, or suicidal. Writer-director Kyle Henry, who will appear at Thursday's screenings, doesn't tip his hand. The constant background drone of news from Iraq, Bush, and the War on Terror might be causing Julia's symptoms. In which case, her final ecstatic, dissociative vision may be a valid response to a world gone mad. BRIAN MILLER

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