This week, we will be taking a look at this year’s sleeper hit, Room, directed by Lenny Abrahamson and starring Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, and Sean Bridgers. It is rated R for language.
Kidnapped and kept captive for many years, Ma (Larson) and her spirited son Jack make do in a 10×10 shed that Ma calls ‘Room’. She attempts to provide her son with a normal, pleasant life for as long as possible, but when Jack’s curiosity for the situation grows, they plan to escape. Once they make it to the real world, everything has changed, and Jack makes a thrilling discovery.
7.5 out of 10
Abduction stories are the absolute worst. I couldn’t help think of Josef Fritzl or Ariel Castro while watching Room, something that simply added to the horror of the situation. Just the idea that there are people evil enough to keep others locked away for years disgusts me. Of course, like Hollywood is always able to do, they take this horrifying story and make it into something inspirational, which can be attributed to incredible performances by Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay, who play a mother-son duo that has been to hell and back.
In case you haven’t heard, Larson is the hands on favorite to win Best Actress. She delivers the performance of a lifetime as Ma, who attempts to raise her son under the awful conditions of being trapped in a square shed coined ‘Room’. The most impressive part of the performance is the psychology behind it– the transformation from nurturing mother to struggling victim is remarkable, and something that Larson does flawlessly.
While Larson does a great job and is indefinitely the backbone of the film, I think Jacob Tremblay gave the most impressive performance. The young actor (8 years old at the time of the film’s release!!!) does a fantastic job of playing Jack with the naivety and innocence that this boy needed to have. He was a child wanted to eat cake before bed and would yell at his mother if he didn’t get something that he wanted… Typical things that kids do. But what is impressive about this is he is able to translate that to confusion and denial when Ma opens up about the situation to him. It is rare to see such a multi-dimensional performance from an actor so young and inexperienced.
My one qualm with the movie is that the second act really dragged. Once Ma and Jack finally escape from the room, the movie did not feel worth watching, which is unfortunate because of how interesting the psychology of being a victim is. The transition in between the transition from the room to outside of it was very abrupt and did not feel gradual, resulting in some pacing issues that present Room with its only major flaw. The majority of the struggles for Ma and Jack come outside the room, which is why it is disappointing that the film dragged towards the second half.
With that said, pacing issues are usually a fatal flaw for most dramas. Luckily for Room, it was not significant enough to take away from the rest of it. Ultimately, the message of hope is what stands out when you finish the movie and absorb it all. The sad reality of the film is that is an event that occurs in real life– the book was based on one of the Fritzl victims– and this movie provides some sort of closure on those victims, good or bad. Room is a really good film, not the best of the year but far from being the worst of the year. Watch for Brie Larson’s name the next few years– she will be everywhere.
9.5 out of 10
I walked into Room knowing only two things: 1. that it was about a mother and son and 2. that it had gotten really good reviews. And from this blankness came a film that grabbed me emotionally and didn’t let go for its entire 118 minute run time, turning into one of my favorite films of 2015 (after Mad Max, Sicario, and Inside Out of course).
I don’t want to give the entire plot because its first act revelation mostly why it completely worked for me, but I will say that Room is about a mother and son living in what they call Room, a small area that is the only place that the five year old boy knows of in the whole world, and grappling with leaving the room. The film has been nominated for four Academy Awards including best picture. Brie Larson is also the favorite to take home the best actress category for her performance as ma. And she definitely deserves it, both being comforting and sweet to her child whom she loves very much as well as bold enough to deal with her situation in both settings, in the room and out of it.
But the performance that I walked out of the theatre struck by is nine year old Jacob Tremblay as Jack, who was snubbed for a nomination in my opinion. Usually child actors can come off as annoying and “acting” instead of feeling natural, but Tremblay appears to have inhabited the character and makes choices based on it, which is extremely impressive coming from such a young kid. His voiceovers, which explain how he sees this world, are performed with an awe and wonder that contrast nicely with the intense situations that the characters find themselves in.
Both the directing by Lenny Abrahamson and the script written by Emma Donahue, who wrote the novel it was based off as well, are able to balance the tension of the first half and the sheer emotional evolution of the second to make both just as engaging and balance each other well. The best thing I can say about Abrahamson’s direction (who was also nominated along with Donahue’s script, is that he is able to make us feel this story from the child’s perspective in the low angle camera shots as well as making the Room as expansive as it is in the child’s head, especially when you see it later from farther away and realize that it is a tiny room.
As for any complaints, the film does drag to an amount towards the end with scenes that feel very similar, until a really strong emotional punch with a new character at the end. Other than that, I found Room to be an emotionally captivating film that stuck with me long after it was over from its combination of excellent acting, writing, and directing.