Directed by Lenny Abrahamson
Starring Joan Allen, Cas Anvar, Sean Bridgers, Brie Larson, William H. Macy, Tom McCamus and Jacob Trembley
Spirited 5-year-old Jack and his devoted Ma escape from their squalid windowless room, and Jack, for the first time in his life, sees the outside world.
Coming from the well appraised Frank of last year, and the haunting slow burner What Richard Did prior, Lenny Abrahamson once again reminds everyone the enormous talent he brings to the screen. Room’s narrative follows Abrahamson’s signature of restraining itself from sensationalist moments and allowing the characters to express their own version of the story. The film’s first half focuses on Ma/Joy (Brie Larson) and Jack’s (Jacob Trembley) relationship to allow their horrifying circumstances to permeate in the background. Both are trapped in the titular space which is a locked garden shed wholly cut off from the world. We are told of their reality through Jack’s eyes, his understanding, and the points of reference established by his dishevelled mother. When the revelation comes to the fore, Jack vociferously rejects Joy’s truth, but the illusion is irrevocably decimated, and we also must transcend with him.
The world building aesthetics of Jack’s unique reality is both imaginative and tragic as Ma does much to protect him from their awful circumstances. Their captor Old Nick’s (Sean Bridgers) daily visits consist of bringing basic supplies and using Joy for his own gratification, and thus Jack is shielded from him. This tension of the trio’s true relationship escalates, though not in such a grisly manner one would expect; its disturbing rhetoric is more akin to a thriller.
When the film shifts us to the outside world the film remains with Jack as he succumbs to his senses, and is overwhelmed by the barrage of natural light, car noises, and the array smells in the air. This transitory awakening is accomplished by Abrahamson’s direction, Trembley’s restrained performance, and Danny Cohen’s blurred cinematography as they densely infuse Jack’s disorientating feelings.
As Jack continues to narrate these new experiences it is Joy reuniting with her parents Nancy (Joan Allen) and Robert (William H. Macy) that becomes a larger part of the story. In the absent five years much has (obviously) changed, and both must work through such differences. It is here that Joy’s PTSD comes into conflict with her caring, yet ill-judged parents and the media’s onslaught looking for their villain – it’s heavy-handed, but its portrayal is too familiar and akin to reality that no-one will think otherwise.
The outstanding performances from Larson and Trembley, and their credible relationship as mother and son will ensure the audience will feel the vast complexity of the psychological changes and the emotional torments along their unremitting journey. Larson’s powerhouse performance is matched by the intelligent performance of Trembley. This is one child actor many may wish to keep an eye on.
Room may offer plenty more in the its literary origin, but Lenny Abrahamson, nonetheless, does bring to the fore the important facets; Jack’s heightened inquisitive yet suspected nature, Joy’s protective strength over Jack yet a personal vulnerability, and her parents whom never wholly understanding Joy’s tumultuous experience. In true Abrahamson fashion the most disturbing factors of the story are merely alluded to as he allows the performances to convey such shocking revelations.
Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★