Largely constructed in the form of his Channel 5 (formerly All Gas No Brakes) content, journalist turned documentary filmmaker Andrew Callaghan gives us his directorial debut with This Place Rules; a collection of footage and interviews that Andrew and his camera operators shot leading up to (and after) the insurrection of the Capitol Building on January 6, 2021. To say that this is an overstimulating movie would be an understatement, especially given that it now feels like ages ago that we lived through that period in history. This brings it all back to the forefront of your mind and then some. Film purists will likely take issue with how it is constructed, but the subject matter is so unhinged that I’d argue it couldn’t be showcased any other way.
Callaghan’s journalistic touch is that he doesn’t really ask questions at all; he allows the consciousness of contemporary America to express itself through emotional outbursts when they’re presented with a microphone. It’s an ironic but transcendent representation of the current state of our country and how we interact with one another. Rarely do the subjects in This Place Rules come to a consensus on anything, but you’ll often see them admit their blissful ignorance on certain political topics. Simply put, this is a film about the dangers of the 24 hour news cycle, and how media literacy needs to be addressed on a nationwide scale. It’s about how fear of the unknown is used to create fringe groups and echo chambers online, and how news outlets capitalize on that fear by running advertisements around it every second of the day.
One of the most fascinating segments in the film involves a family (the Spencers), whom Andrew met outside the Georgia governor’s house during the “Stop the Steal” movement. The eldest Spencer son, who couldn’t be older than ten or twelve, is showcased protesting with his family in the street and using a megaphone to spread QAnon lore. It’s one of the most startling moments at first, but Callaghan approaches the family with such radical empathy that you end up deeply moved by their innocence and willingness to challenge their household teachings. This segment of the picture actually echoes the work of Michael Moore, albeit in a far less emphatic manner.
It should come as no surprise that the film reaches a thematic crescendo in the dining room of a Culver’s restaurant, which captures one of the most honest and gut wrenching confrontations in recent memory. It all comes to a close on a rather open-ended and existential note, as Callaghan alludes to our nation entering a new era of social and economic challenges. This Place Rules is at times uncomfortable to endure but passionately told by a journalist whose only goal is to document the historical events that led to the 2021 insurrection of the U.S. Capitol building. I expect this to be an extremely divisive documentary, but one that I believe is essential viewing for any American citizen.
This Place Rules is available to stream now on HBO Max