Mabel Mann reviews Emma Donoghue’s film Room, based on the her novel of the same name, following a child’s exploration of the outside world, after being born and brought up in the room he and his mother have been held captive in.
This haunting movie, directed by Lenny Abrahamson, allows us into the thoughts of a small boy whilst enclosed in an even smaller ‘room’. The opening abstract shots of dirty floors, peeling walls and the sound of calm breathing, make an eerie start to the film. This small section is the first insight we have of ‘room’, the place where Jack, played by Jacob Tremblay, and Ma played by Brie Larson are trapped. A tiny square room with four walls and one door; a place of imprisonment for Ma, yet for Jack somewhere that “goes in every direction, all the way to the end”. It’s a whole world for Jack and a prison for his mother. It is this contradicting dialogue that drives the film to an exciting end.
Scenes of Jack lying on his back, staring at the small sky light in the room, touch you with how far you can see his imagination reach beyond and wonder to the outside of the four walls.
Ma turns her nightmare into a fairy-tale to protect Jack, the little droplets of information about the outside world that Ma gives to Jack, only proceed to let his imagination of ‘TV people’, animals and leaves, grow into his own make believe story. Scenes of Jack lying on his back, staring at the small sky light in the room, touch you with how far you can see his imagination reach beyond and wonder to the outside of the four walls. You can almost hear the confused thoughts running through his head when Ma tells him about what’s on the outside; the real world. “There are so many things out there. And sometimes it’s scary, but that’s ok. Because it’s still just me and you…” The way the characters strengths and weaknesses interchange within the different settings of the film is something that makes this movie stand out. The complexity of their situation is reflected in the characters: Jack a young boy who knows nothing but a place of comfort and home for him, yet for his mother Ma, its a prison. She has witnessed the world and desperately wants her son to experience it. She’s depressed, traumatised and at times frantic, yet her love for Jack is never forgotten. ‘Old Nick’ is shown minimally in the film, with such a stinging story, the handling of the rape scenes are done so sensitively and delicately, which adds a fragile feature, not only to the film itself but the extreme reality the pair are facing. In such a harrowing tale, it’s inspiring to witness the strength of a young child to find light beyond the darkness of four walls.
‘Old Nick’ is shown minimally in the film, with such a stinging story, the handling of the rape scenes are done so sensitively and delicately, which adds a fragile feature, not only to the film itself, but the extreme reality the pair are facing.’
However, this film is not for the faint hearted, after experiencing a near panic attack whilst watching the escape of 5 year old Jack, I have to say it was a slightly uncomfortable watch. Yet, this would be the reality. I don’t believe an escape of this nature would be anything short of terrifying. Brie Larson is worth every tear drop, spine tingle and goose bump you feel in this film, and I guarantee you will experience all three of these. Her nomination as Best Actress in a leading role is undoubtedly well-deserved, and Jacob Tremblay is also a force to be reckoned with. He has a strong career ahead of him.
Alongside these incredible performances, is an intensity to the film that really gets to you, as a by-stander witnessing this harrowing tale. The harsh, constant changing of emotions throughout the film is something that, at times, is too hard to swallow. Nevertheless, perhaps this is what is so great about the film. It provides a true rollercoaster of emotions that is constantly edging you ever closer to a knowing drop: that it might be too late for Ma.
Director: Lenny Abrahamson
Cast: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen, William H. Macy, Sean Bridgers
Nominations: Best Picture, Best Actress in a Leading Role (Brie Larson), Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay
Why You Should Watch It:
This film isn’t just a crime-drama or thriller. Instead, it is about human resilience and how the love shared between a mother and child really can pull through and overcome anything. The obscure shots and contrasting dialect between Jack’s romantic narrative and grim reality is something that really stands out, a unique feature which grips you as an audience. A film I would recommend to everyone, a showcase of authentic rubbery human relationships.
What Its Missing:
I feel as though Jack’s experiences of his new found world should have been focused on more – things we find mundane such as windows, shoes and technology is a huge discovery for Jack and I personally would of enjoyed a stronger focus on seeing him experience these things more. As an audience, your hopes and emotions predominantly lie in Jack and to see him progress in this way and grow up, could have been a bigger part of the film.
The Worldly Rating: ****