Review: Room directed by Lenny Abrahamson
April 13, 2016
Room tells the story of a young mother and her 5 year old son who are held in a kidnapper’s captivity. Ma (Brie Larson) and Jack (Jacob Tremblay) are confined by a 10-by-10-foot garden shed which Ma names ‘Room’; this is the only place Jack has ever known and, in order to lay a foundation on which Jack can believe he is truly happy, Ma lets Jack believe that Room is the only real place in existence. Once Jack turns 5 and begins to develop further curiosity about the world, Ma decides to tell him the truth and hatch a plan to escape from their kidnapper, Old Nick. Ma desperately tries to fight for a life of freedom outside of Room, but 7 years of entrapment results in Ma having to ask herself whether she and her son will be able to cope in the outside world, or is it a scarier place than Room?
Directed by Lenny Abrahamson and written by Emma Donoghue (who also wrote the book on which the film is based), Room is a wonderfully raw and powerful film that stands out from a sea of special effects and cheesy one liners. Room delivers a story that delicately creates atmospheres of both stillness and mayhem, but ultimately balances it with intense heart. It turns perspective upside down as we see our reality and normality through the eyes of two characters who view it as so alien. The film is really a tale of a mother and son’s relationship and how they battle to keep one another safe and happy. It is clear that Larson and Tremblay established a solid off-screen friendship that makes their on-screen relationship so unique and yet totally believable.
Larson delivers her performance with power and strength, giving her character an edge that makes her far from any damsel in distress. Whilst playing such an intense and vulnerable role, there is no doubt that she shows respect and dignity to those who have been in such horrifying circumstances around the world. From previously seeing Larson in lighter, more supporting roles (21 Jump Street, The Spectacular Now), I loved seeing her as such a pained and conflicted character. Her co-star, arguably the lead in this film and the main narrative, is 9 year old Jacob Tremblay. I would never have believed an actor of such youth could take on such a profoundly complicated and weighty role, let alone perform it to such a high standard. Tremblay is a jewel in this film, giving the audience a character with such naivety and juvenescence and yet with a soul who has experienced far beyond what anyone else could imagine.
If I had to make one criticism of this film it would be that I wanted to see more. The film concludes with Ma and Jack saying goodbye to Room and the pair finally getting some closure as Jack remarks that he doesn’t want the door to be shut again. However, it did leave me with questions… Did Ma’s Father stay out of their lives for good? Was Jack able to grow up and lead a relatively normal life? Did Old Nick get convicted? Yet, of course, I know that I cannot have my way and watch hundreds of hours’ worth of film about Ma and Jack in order to get some more closure myself. Room tells an imperfect and brutal story and I suppose it would be wrong to expect an ending that formed itself into a neat little bow. The ending was realistic; Donoghue’s book Room (prior to the film) was written after she had heard of 5 year old Felix in the infamous Fritzl case, and so it just reinforces the very real fact that happy endings may not always be simple and without consequence themselves.
Overall, Room is a film that does not disappear to the back of your mind easily. It lingers and ever so slightly colours itself across your eyes so that sometimes when you look at the world around you it seems to look slightly different.
‘I’ve seen persons with different faces, and bigness, and smells, talking all together. The world’s like all TV planets on at the same time, so I don’t know which way to look and listen. There’s doors and… More doors. And behind all the doors, there’s another inside, and another outside. And things happen, happen, HAPPENING. It never stops.’ Quote from Jack.