Film Review: Room
In 2015, Lenny Abrahamson released Room, written by Emma Donoghue and based off her 2010 novel of the same name, which in itself was based off the 2008 Fritzl case. Starring Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen, William H. Macy, Sean Bridgers, Tom McCamus, Amanda Brugel, Joe Pingue, Megan Park, Cas Anvar, and Wendy Crewson, the film grossed $10.8 million at the box office. Winner of the British Independent Film Awards for Best International Independent Film and the San Diego Film Critics Society Awards for Best Breakthrough Performance, Best Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay, the film has been nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay.
Five year old Jack lives with his Ma in a single room where he has been all his life. However, Ma has lived there for seven years since she had been abducted by Old Nick. He has never been or seen anything beyond Room except for what comes through a skylight. He’s happy, watching television and listening to Ma’s stories. But one day, she figures out a plan to escape.
One of those films that completely sucks the viewer in, Room is incredibly well done and manages to masterfully combine two different feelings in both halves while still keeping the same desperate tone. The film is seen through the perspective of Jack and what he sees most in Ma is her desperation. In the first half of the film, it’s her desperation to keep up appearances and survive. But after they escape, the desperation turns from that to a desperate attempt to continue living when the world has passed her by for seven years. The film is able to not only perfectly convey the Post-Traumatic Stress that Ma is feeling following the escape, but it’s able to give the viewer the feeling of having it as well. Though Old Nick never appears following the escape, there’s always that foreboding feeling that he’s going to be behind every door or around every corner. In the first half, the viewer gets what’s happening and in the second half, the film doesn’t let them process everything that happened, but forces them to stay on edge until the film ends and only then can the viewer have that process. A very notable aspect, too, is how it portrays the police. Unlike most films where the police are rather incompetent and do nothing helpful, they immediately spring to action once they realize where Jack is from and help to get him and Ma to safety.
It’s because of just how much of a monster Old Nick is that the film is able to present that feeling of Post-Traumatic Stress in the viewer. He’s a villain in every sense of the word, going so far as to abducting a young woman and imprisoning her in a room for seven years with the only social contact being her young son. There’s also raping her nightly just mere feet away from said son. Further, when Ma claims that he’s sick and needs attention, Old Nick refuses to go to the emergency room and just say he’ll bring something the next night as well as asking if Ma is sure he’s dead when she says he is. Interestingly, the film doesn’t show what happens to him after they escape. However, it doesn’t need to as it’s in the perspective of Jack who wouldn’t understand lengthy court proceedings or anything of that nature. But just how evil he is is felt long after he’s out of the film, as stated above. His character stays with and haunts the viewer.
Contrast all that with Jack’s character. He’s so young and knows nothing beyond the four walls of Room that he immediately thinks that Ma is lying when she tells him that there’s actually something tangible beyond them. But after escaping, Tremblay is able to greatly emote the wonder that a boy like Jack would have upon suddenly being thrust into a world that is so much bigger than the four walls of Room.
However, the film wouldn’t nearly be as good as it is without Larson’s performance. She brings a tremendous amount of energy and emotion to someone who is has been deprived of human contact for seven years other than her rapist and son. Even then, after escaping, she brings a lot more in just how overwhelming it is with the media and her father refusing to acknowledge Jack. It even shows up in her facial expressions, like her blank look at believing the reporter who blamed her for raising Jack in Room as well as when Jack wants to return.
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