THE STORY – Held captive for years in an enclosed space, a woman (Brie Larson) and her young son (Jacob Tremblay) finally gain their freedom, allowing the boy to experience the outside world for the first time.
THE CAST – Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen, Sean Bridgers & William H. Macy
THE TEAM – Lenny Abrahamson (Director) & Emma Donoghue (Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 118 Minutes
By Celia Schlekewey
“Room” begins with a fairytale, about an angel child who “zoomed down from heaven, through Skylight into Room,” blessing the woman inside with the gift of life. It’s a fantasy and a happy one, but it highlights one of the most disturbing aspects of life: all fantasies must end, eventually.
Newly 5-years-old, Jack (Jacob Tremblay) lives his life in ‘Room’ as if contains everything he could ever possibly need. He learns to brush his teeth, he does morning yoga, he tumbles and runs, and he takes his baths. Joy (Brie Larson) is the organizer of all of these activities, providing love and constant support, doing her best to make every day stimulating and fun. After a frightening encounter with Old Nick, Joy tells Jack that they must try to escape ‘Room’ and the audience realizes something shocking: Jack has no knowledge of the existence of the outside world. Slowly, Joy begins to explain that she has lived in ‘Room’ for 7 years, after being kidnapped by Old Nick when she was 19. When Jack was little, she did not trust that he would understand their predicament, so she chose to tell him that ‘Room’ was the whole world and everything else outside of it only exists on television. When he learns that this is not the case, it shakes him to his core, and they each begin to struggle with their own adjustment to the new normal.
Lenny Abrahamson’s “Room” finds its strength in its characters. Larson provides a nuanced, incredibly patient performance as Joy Newsome. Despite the story being told through Jack’s eyes, the filmmakers gave Joy plenty of space to telegraph her thoughts and feelings to the audience. She breaks a few times throughout the film and each time it is carried by Larson’s ability to build the intensity following up to her breakdowns, keeping the audience with her even if they might disagree with the character’s reasoning. Tremblay also works impeccably well as Jack, maintaining his optimism while still being realistic. Any child would struggle to portray Jack as loving and scared at the same time, but Tremblay succeeds in scene after scene, and the film would simply not work without him.
While some of the cinematography itself is impressive, especially in the beginning where it manages to make Room look as expansive as Jack believes it to be, there are definitely some shaky moments. There are some odd choices of zoom-ins and camera angles that can fight against the tone of the scene and make it difficult for the audience to know how to feel. Perhaps this is intended, as the characters themselves are conflicted and constricted in these scenes as well, but more likely it is a failure on the director’s part to have his artistic style match up with the content in those few short moments. However, this does not detract from the enjoyment of the film overall. And I say enjoyment with a grain of salt because at its core, “Room” is a heartbreaking story of parental fear and love that will have you gasping for air one moment, crying the next and contemplating thoughtfully about the possibilities for life at the end.
The film was nominated for four Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Directing, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Actress for Brie Larson, with Larson’s performance winning her the Best Actress Oscar. In an Oscar year with stiff competition, it’s easy to see why “Room” couldn’t push through into more categories or gain more wins. However, I do believe that the right actress won for Best Leading Role that year, considering Larson’s extreme care and range she brought to the role. Her win acted as a representation for the film as a whole, although I wish more love had been given to Jacob Tremblay who at the age of only 9, had an extraordinarily difficult role to pull off and he did it with warmth, curiosity, and awe.
“Room” ends with Joy and Jack visiting ‘Room’ one last time, and seeing it broken up and opened. It looks so much smaller now, despite being emptier. Jack says goodbye to all of his things and heads to his new home. The beautiful wrap-up allowed the audiences to let go of the trauma, just as the characters did. The fantasy (or nightmare) had to end, but that does not mean that the truth can’t be just as wonderful.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – Phenomenal performances from Brie Larson & Jacob Tremblay. Emotionally heartbreaking and simultaneously uplifting.
THE BAD – Overly stylized cinematography. First half is more gripping than the second half.