Weighing the home-listening merits of a soundtrack is tough, since it came into being for the express purpose of complementing visual imagery. William Ryan Fritch boasts an as yet small but beautiful and muscular discography as Vieo Abiungo, and The Waiting Room is far from his first film score. The documentary, filmed in the emergency room of an Oakland, CA, hospital by first-time director Peter Nicks, is intended to shed some light on the less-than uplifting state of the American health care system, and judging from the accolades it has accumulated, has done so very effectively indeed.
On its own, the score however seems bereft of the movie´s self-proclaimed “character-driven cinema verité”. If I hadn´t read the backstory, I never would have guessed what the music was “about”. There are several absorbing passages, such as “Light in a Dark Hour”, which would have been so much more so had they had been extended beyond the two-and-a-half minute teaser on the album. Conversely, the music is too splendid on its own to convey the mind-numbing frustration vulnerable individuals and well-meaning caregivers must endure in the clutches of a dysfunctional system. Each track bears Fritch’s trademark handicraft, a kind of modern folk music for the urban ritual mustering an impressive arsenal of acoustic and electronic instruments, but The Waiting Room is ultimately hobbled by its origins as an enhancement rather than a freestanding work.