RELEASE DATE: 26th February 2016
RATING: 13 L
RUNNING TIME: 1hr 57min
STARRING: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Sean Bridgers, Wendy Crewson, Sandy McMaster
DIRECTOR: Lenny Abrahamson
WRITERS: Emma Donoghue (screenplay), Emma Donoghue (based on the novel by)
PRODUCERS: David Gross, Ed Guiney, Hartley Gorenstein, Rose Garnett
PRODUCTION BUDGET: $6mil
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: http://roomthemovie.com/
A taut, compelling exploration into the strength of the human spirit
When she was 17, Joy (Brie Larson) was kidnapped and placed in a sealed garden shed by a man she only knows as Old Nick (Sean Bridgers). Seven years later she is still trapped in Room, but now she has a five year old son, Jack (Jacob Tremblay). She tries to make things as normal for him as she can, but because she, and he, can never leave Room she lies to him, telling that there is no outside world, that Room is all there is. He believes her, who wouldn’t believe their mother, but as he gets older, and starts to question, her resilience also starts to falter, and she sees an opportunity to escape her capture. Through some incredible bravery by the boy, they manage to get out of Room and into the real world, but how can you deal with reality when it’s something you’ve never experienced, and how can you overcome something as traumatic as kidnapping and confinement for seven years?
WHY WATCH IT
I’ve seen a couple of compelling, troubling and moving films in my day, but nothing can prepare a person for the emotional rollercoaster tide that is Room. From the moment it starts you know something isn’t right about what’s happening on the screen. You don’t know quite what it is, since it’s not explained until about twenty minutes in, but you can just tell that things are not the way they should be. When you discover the truth about what’s happened to this little girl and her even littler son, it makes you sick to your stomach, and all you want to do is find a way to see them escape this hell that they’ve been sucked into. Of course, when they do, in a heart wrenching, edge of your seat scene that involves the kid playing dead, which makes the audience hold their breaths for about twenty minutes, we discover that things are not all hunky dory, like they are in other films, after you escape a situation like that. You can’t simply walk back into your old life and pretend like nothing happened. There are deep emotional scars left by something as traumatic as that, and then, to have a reminder of what happened in the form of a walking talking little boy that you actually love, that must mess with your mind immensely.
This deep emotional turmoil is explored beautifully by the two leads in the film, Larson and Tremblay.
Larson shows incredible strength and resilience as a woman taken from her life, sealed in a room, with no hope of escape, and yet she never resigns herself to her situation, always looking for a way out, even after seven years. She’s tough and strong and a good mother, considering the circumstances. She really starts to shine after she gets out of Room. She’s back in the real world, back where she belongs, and yet she feels more locked up and set aside than she did when she was in Room. She clings to her son, never blaming him for what happened, even if some can’t look at him because he reminds them of what she went through. Soon, she realises that it’s impossible to go back, even if that’s all she wants to do. She tries to pretend Room never happened, like everything is fine and she was just on vacation for seven years, but eventually the trauma of what happened catches up to her and she tries to take extreme action to stop the pain. Larson deserves her Oscar nom for this role.
Tremblay is, in a word, sublime. Here is this little boy, no older than eight in real life, pretending to be five in the film, who has never known anything but this room that he was born in and spent his entire life in. He has no idea that there is anything else, and, to make things easier, his mother has told him there isn’t anything else. There’s no world outside the door, there is nothing but Room, no animals, no trees, no Earth, no nothing, only Room. Then imagine that everything you know is completely obliterated when you’re told it’s all a lie. Like Galileo telling the clergy that the world is round, instead of flat. It throws everything on its head and twists you around. Tremblay does an incredible job of portraying a boy to which exactly that happens. His world is pulled apart, laid bare as a complete lie. He doesn’t understand any of it, not really, but he trusts his mother implicitly, so much so that he’s willing to risk his life to make her happy. Then imagine, after knowing the world is flat, suddenly you actually see its round, with your own eyes. This little boy’s entire world is turned around by the realisation that there is more than Room, but how do you deal with that? Especially when you’re five years old. It’s one of the most compelling performances by an actor, regardless of age I have ever seen.
Larson and Tremblay shine especially when they are together. The final scene, when they visit Room again, is some of the most emotionally compelling cinema I have ever seen. Larson’s character sees Room as a prison, as the place she was held for the worst seven years of her entire life, whereas Tremblay’s character sees it as a safe place, his first home, the place where his mom always made him happy, made it fun and kept him safe. It’s an interesting juxtaposition on the different impressions of a place, depending on our perception of that place, and it makes for incredible film making.
This film is traumatic, and emotive, and disturbing, and completely wonderful. It’s the kind of film that stays with you weeks after you see it and just makes you think about your life, and be thankful that it is the way it is. If you’re a fan of good film making, and incredible acting, then Room is a film you really need to go and see. It is beautiful in its troubling-ness
Jon Broeke (@jonbroeke)