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A World Of Their Own: Room

Updated on February 28, 2016
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One day about seven years ago, Joy Newsome vanished without a trace in Akron, Ohio. Only two people know she's still alive: her five-year-old son and the man who forced her into captivity. The movie Room takes a look at the lives led by Joy (Brie Larson) and her son Jack (Jacob Tremblay) in a small shed that gives the two their basic needs. She has spent the days telling Jack that their place contains their entire known world. The shed's owner, known to them only as Old Nick (Sean Bridgers), makes sure neither knows the way to escape. When Old Nick demands personal companionship, Joy has to send Jack to the shed's wardrobe closet. Jack, though, starts to have more questions about the world outside their shed, which Joy has called Room. Jack has begun to understand that the world that they see on television is not some other universe.

That growth in Jack inspires Joy to hatch a desperate plan. She convinces Old Nick that Jack has a fever, and needs a doctor. Old Nick orders Joy to deal with the boy's illness with the medicine in Room. Joy then has Jack play dead, rolling him in a rug just before Old Nick does another check on the pair. A hysterical Joy blames Old Nick for the problem, and tells him to bury the boy in a favorite spot of hers. Joy, however, has repeatedly drilled Jack on how to extricate himself from the rug and jump from Nick's pick-up truck. While Jack doesn't run his part of the plan to perfection, he does enough to get the attention of a man, who notifies the police. In time, with Jack's description of Room, they locate the place, rescue Joy, and take Old Nick into custody. The rescue, though, simply begins another ordeal, where Joy has difficulty reconnecting with her now-divorced parents, Nancy (Joan Allen) and Robert (William H. Macy), as well as getting to know Nancy's new husband Leo (Tom McCamus).

Room, based on a novel by Emma Donoghue, who also wrote the screen adaptation, is a compelling, but disturbing, look at the details someone can hide without scrutiny. Joy has lived in isolation, save for the constant presence of Jack and the regular checks from Old Nick. Nobody knows because Old Nick has made it his business to keep the situation quiet. The one logical question I have with Room is the security code that Old Nick uses has just a few digits. Viewers never see Joy trying the possible number combinations that could have sprung her and her boy a long time before their rescue. She simply focuses on the life into which she was forced in the shed, with a particular concern on Jack. Director Lenny Abramson creates a pace where time, in certain ways, seems to stand still. Yet, he also creates an understanding that things have changed, and will continue to change. He shows Room as a small world that grows smaller as Jack's knowledge grows larger. Something will give if things remain so spatially limited.

I've seen Larson here and there in films over the years such as 13 Going On 30, The Spectacular Now, and Trainwreck. This performance as Joy gives Larson the chance to show a wide range of emotions, from nurturing and playful to enraged, subservient, and depressed. She's in a space where nobody can hear her scream except Jack and Old Nick. She has found a reason in Jack to accentuate some positive emotions, yet she wants her life to have more normalcy. The problem is she's been nowhere in seven years, which takes an emotional toll once returned to a proper home. Just as impressive is young Tremblay as Jack, a young man who finally gets to see a world beyond Room, and he embraces the chance to be a part of it. He seems unfazed by the change of scenery as he's introduced to the world where he can meet grandparents, new people, and pets. The only things he misses are his mother when she's necessarily away, and Room itself. I always enjoy the quality work that Allen and Macy give in their roles, and Bridgers and McCamus do fine supporting work as well.

The novel Room came just one year after the world learned about the long ordeal of Jaycee Dugard, and three years before the world learned of the forced imprisonment of Cleveland women Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight. The movie Room captures a similarly troubling situation in a most convincing fashion. People like to think that nothing like Joy Newsome's situation could ever happen, but one devious mind can disprove that feeling and lead authorities to wonder how to prevent another such incident. All they ever conclude is that any lapse in vigilance could allow such a thing to occur again. Room shows that life still happens, even if few know of its existence.

On a scale of zero to four stars, I give Room four stars. It's their small world, after all.

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