Directed by Lenny Abrahamson
Starring Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen, Tom McCamus, Sean Bridgers, Wendy Crewson and William H. Macy
After 5-year old Jack and his Ma escape from the enclosed surroundings that Jack has known his entire life, the boy makes a thrilling discovery: the outside world.
Good morning bed. Good morning lamp. Good morning desk. Good morning walls. Good morning room. Hardly the kind of morning routine many of us would undertake as part of our daily rituals, but life for 5-year-old Jack (Jacob Tremblay) isn’t one of normality, at least to us. For Jack lives in Room, a small 11ft by 11ft enclosure that is his world, his universe and his future, and as bleak as it sounds, for Jack is his everything. In Room with him is his Ma (Larson) who has been walking the same square of carpet, sharing the same bath and enjoying the same single skylight that shines the only natural light into their tiny space in time.
Jack only knows these four walls and these small luxuries as he and his Ma try to find whatever they can to amuse and to survive, but as a precocious and intelligent young boy, his imagination knows no bounds despite such limitations. As the world of Room is unveiled, we see everything through Jack’s eyes as the immediacy and impact of such a strange but startlingly powerful set of circumstances are presented to us in Lenny Abrahamson’s (Frank) stunning film. The proximity of everything in the opening stages is startlingly evident as we see the full force of the room in harsh but telling close-ups as the duo go about their daily routines only halted every so often by arrival of Old Nick (Bridgers) – their captor.
Soon enough, what begun as a claustrophobic still drama has exploded into life as a white-knuckle thriller, which sees Jack presented with the biggest room of all: the world. No matter how many lessons, how much imagination he though he had, nothing can ready him for what lies outside the sound-proofed, cold, sterile place he used to call home. Suddenly, he is dealing with natural life, with many things we all take for granted, for the first time a-new as if it never existed before, bursting open with light and colour before his infant eyes.
Sensibly entrusting the script of the film with the book’s author Emma Donoghue, the story soars throughout, avoiding falling into saccharine territory and deals with post-traumatic stress disorder, the loss of innocence and the re-awakening of one self to the wonders of the world with such delicate grace and honesty that it touches the heartstrings in the most profound ways. There are some interesting media angles too, with the furore of such events represented with the same crazy gatherings of press. Sure there are questions about Ma’s actions in previous escape plans (skylight, killing Old Nick) to get them free, but such is the power and uplifting quality of the film that such small vices are insignificant when presented with the final product.
Abrahamson too deserves high plaudits for his work here too, with the early stages stark and wearisome before the films “opens” up and the world comes flooding in in all its splendour and glory. Kudos too to photographer Danny Cohen, editor Nathan Nugent and composer Stephen Rennicks who each add great touches to such a wonderful film.
For all its emotion, its sincerity none of its elements would work with two fearless actors at the heart of the story, and Abrahamson has lucked out with a duo that profoundly and completely immerse both themselves and us: as Ma, Larson is spectacular, superbly combining the tenderness and love of being a mother with the jagged undertones that threaten to derail her newly found freedom. While it seems that her ordeal is going to swallow her and her relationship with Jack whole, its that same love that will ultimately set her free, and in Larson’s hands you feel every tear and every smile.
But the star here is Jacob Tremblay, who is the child find of the year by a long, long way. The whole film rests on his small, weary shoulders but his maturity and spirit are so vast and so thoughtful that everything he is tasked with here is tackles astonishingly. Stripped of all the normalcy that would see a child rip open a pack of toys at first glance, smile with delight when they first taste ice-cream or become enthralled of the sight of an dog (one of many tear-enducing scenes), Tremblay’s measured performance enthrals from moment one as we see such trivial things for the first time again through him. Awards beckon unquestionably for both, while noted mentions to the work of Joan Allen and Tom McCamus, who both excel.
Even the most harden cinemagoer will fall under the spell of Room at least once, and so far it seems every audience have fallen suit. Almost out of nowhere, Room has enchanted, enthralled and uplifted itself into the Oscar race with an emotionally complex but supremely rewarding, heartbreaking and transformative tale of the love between mother and child, supported by two astounding central performances that will stay with you for days afterwards.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Scott Davis is a Senior Staff Writer at Flickering Myth, and is the co-host of The Flickering Myth Podcast.