I was ambivalent about entering Room, but I’m really glad I did. It’s a compelling drama with two stellar lead performances from Brie Larson and child actor Jacob Tremblay who should at least be considered for an Oscar nomination. The film opens with Tremblay’s character Jack celebrating his fifth birthday in “room”, a small enclosure that he and his Ma (Larson) have lived in his entire life. He knows nothing of the outside world beyond what he sees in a rectangular skylight way out of reach, and on a television that gets very poor reception. The sparse furnishings are his ‘friends’, and he and Ma keep themselves occupied during the day with books, games, and a hefty dose of imagination. It’s a solitary existence interrupted only by the nighttime visits by ‘Old Nick’ (Sean Bridgers) a creepy guy who apparently abducted Ma for use as his personal sex slave.
Room is told largely from Jack’s perspective, so you learn information about him and his mother through his eyes, which is why it takes a while to know that Ma has a given name (Joy), that she once lived in the outside world, and that she’s been waiting for Jack to get old enough to aid in their possible escape. Ma hatches a harrowing escape plan that is suspenseful, scary, crazy, and difficult to watch. The second half of the movie revolves around what happens when Joy and Jack re-enter the world. It’s a transition that is all at once liberating, terrifying and complicated for the duo, and challenging as well for loved ones whose lives were impacted by Joy’s lengthy disappearance. There’s a lot more to what’s going on, but I don’t want to give anything more away. Some questions are left for the individual movie-goer to ponder. And since I didn’t read the book…
The film is, in fact, based on the 2010 novel “Room” by Emma Donoghue who also penned the screenplay. The story itself is fiction (thank goodness), though it was inspired by a 2008 Australian case of captivity, and it does leave you wondering how many Elizabeth Smart or Cleveland ‘house of horrors’-type victims may be out there somewhere – almost in plain sight, but not quite. It’s a sobering thought.
I don’t think I would ever want to sit through Room again. But I do hope enough people see it to understand why it deserves to be on everyone’s radar as awards season ramps up.
I’m posting the trailer below for those who can’t bring themselves to see a movie without the sneak peek, but I would advise AGAINST watching it. The less you know going in, the more you’ll get out of the journey the film seeks to take you on.