Film Review – Room
Room has been playing to critical acclaim since its September release at the Telluride and Toronto International Film Festivals. I cannot ignore a film that stars Brie Larson anymore since I discovered her performance in Short Term 12 at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival in March 2013. It ended up being one of my favorite films of that year. I cannot ignore director Lenny Abrahamson anymore either after seeing his film Frank at SXSW 2014. Throw in the ingenious young actor Jacob Tremblay and Joan Allen and you get the perfect mix of talented actors and crew to make Room pretty much the best independent dramatic film of the year.
Based on the novel by Emma Donoghue, who also wrote the screenplay, Room follows the imprisoned Ma or Joy (Brie Larson) and her child Jack (Jacob Tremblay) born of her circumstance. Kidnapped and held prisoner by “Old Nick” (Sean Bridgers) for seven years, Joy maintains that “Room” is the only place to live in the world for her son, Jack, who turns five years old. It is a coping mechanism that is tarnished by the almost daily visits by “Old Nick” to rape Joy. Sick of living in complacence of her situation, Joy decides to escape her situation by using her son to help her. Given the trailers for the film, it is not a spoiler to say they make it out. The aftermath of their escape is the focus of the rest of the film. Adjusting back to her other life, Joy struggles, and Jack must learn what the world really is about.
Those who endeavor to see this film may want to consider a couple of important elements of it. The film spends about half of its runtime in “Room.” This gives the audience member an appreciation for their living circumstances, Joy’s predicaments, Jack’s life, and the way they survived at the mercy of one man. The film is also told from the perspective of Jack, not Joy. The novel is also told from this same perspective, so it is not a change in story. If anything, you are able to discover the world through Jack’s eyes and how he thought nothing was really wrong living in “Room.” His attachment to his Ma is so strong and Joy’s dependence on Jack is the same.
The way the film is shot, and Jack being a central character, there are a lot of shots that focus on his face and what he is experiencing. He has circles under his eyes and long lashes. I could probably draw his face from memory. This focus on his face re-emphasizes his experience and his awakening to the world. The film, all together, is shot beautifully, and I would not say that it is a conventional film in this sense. Considering half the film is in “Room,” Lenny Abrahamson is able to use a cramped place such as that and make it seem bigger. This coincides with Jack’s perspective on his life. Had it been from Joy’s perspective, “Room” may have been shot different, in a more closed-in, stifling manner.
My favorite sequence of the film is Jack’s escape from “Room.” This is his first time seeing anything outside of his small space. He does not know trucks, trees, grass, houses, or other people. The series of scenes is terrifying, thrilling, and beautiful. You are gripping your chair wondering what will happen and will Jack make it. Combine all of that with the beautiful score, and you get the best sequence in Room.
This film is more complicated emotionally than you may think. It is not all peachy keen when Joy and Jack escape “Room.” There is a huge adjustment period as well as Joy dealing with seven years of being traumatized and raped by a man. There is progress, but there is no entirely happy ending.
If it gets what it deserves, Room should be one independent film (distributed by A24) that will reach a large audience. Critical acclaim and strong word of mouth has this Lenny Abrahamson film steering itself to a much larger audience than most indies. This has an original story and brilliant performances by all involved. This is not one you should miss in the theaters. It is more than worthy of any and all award nominations coming to this beautiful film.