It’s not often apparent how much we take for granted the little things in life. We may be in a hurry for some obligation or another and step outside into a day of unbroken routine soaking up the morning air without any regard. It’s this routine that blinds us of the treasures life affords us.
The amenities of human existence such as sunsets and a child’s embrace. Sure these moments can be summarized in a birthday card or brought up at the end of your favorite movie, but it isn’t until you realize all of it could be taken from you in an instant that you stop to breathe in your good fortune. The fading memories of a happy life for many are ruined by damaged souls who refuse to recognize their own empathy and prefer to instead drown you in their misery rather than let you go. Where would someone place their hope and strength then? In the heart, and hair, of a young boy.
In Room, Jack (Jacob Tremblay) is celebrating his fifth birthday in the only world he’s ever known, a small shed equipped with a twin bed, a sink, a bathtub, a toaster oven, a TV, and a closet. His mother Joy (Brie Larson), who Jack calls Ma, has taken care of Jack and lived in the shed for seven years, ever since she was kidnapped and impregnated by her captor. Jack’s only view of the outside is a skylight that is out of reach and provides enough light for them to carry on with their daily routine of exercise and keeping busy. Jack is taught not to believe the people he sees on TV are real and that outside of the shed there is nothing except for outer space. Even cats and dogs are imaginary to him. The only outside presence is Old Nick, the magic man who brings them supplies and keeps them alive for his own pleasure.
Joy is fiercely protective of Jack and has him stay in the closet until Old Nick leaves. When Joy begins to realize how much Jack has grown and how dangerous it will be for him to stay here any longer, she teaches Jack about the world he doesn’t know and with his help they figure out a plan to escape once and for all. Jack has adapted his life and his world around a room no bigger than a jail cell. The struggle inside was real for Joy and her son, but outside the struggle will be even more difficult.
Once she does escape, the parents of Joy are her only outlet to the world she left behind, until she learns to cope with what’s become of her life and her family. She does have to suffer the discomfort of media attention in order to afford representation, but that is just one of the many things Joy does not handle well. Such as her father Robert (William H. Macy), who wants nothing to do with Jack.
Jack, on the other hand, must slowly learn to trust other people, having only known his mother and the dangerous Old Nick. Fortunately Joy gave him a very clever coping mechanism in his incredibly long hair. She teaches Jack about the story of Samson and how his hair gives him his power and his strength. Jack uses this to step bravely into uncharted territories of family bonding and friendship. The strength of this loving child is also supported by a terrific grandma, played by Joan Allen. There are other people that help Jack and his mother along the way and it’s this group of people that awaken Jack’s world mentally and emotionally. His interactions and experiences in this movie are some of the most heartfelt and genuine moments ever portrayed by a child on-screen.
The writer of the novel this movie is based on, Emma Donoghue, also wrote the screenplay and, while I haven’t read the book yet, I can say her screenplay has depth and raw emotional dialogue. You may find yourself yelling at the screen to help Jack or to calm his mother down. It’s like watching a Law and Order SVU episode with no 11th hour heroics. Just a mom who desperately wants to save her son, even at the cost of her own life. Of course the guilt of keeping her son rather than allowing him to go to a foster home or orphanage is a burden no heart could bear. Love kept them both alive and even though it doesn’t guarantee a positive outcome, it’s the best place to start.
Room is a well-constructed film with strong performances from all actors. Brie Larson is excellent as the mother with a weathered spirit of fleeting hope grasping onto the light of her son. Her companion actor, Jacob Tremblay, should also receive high praise for bringing out such natural responses of a child who isn’t supposed to have ever seen the world. Jacob’s chemistry with Brie is a wonderful success and shows the kind of gifted talent he will be expanding on for years to come. I also enjoyed the scenes between Jack and his grandma or Jack and grandma’s boyfriend, who provided the proper nurturing father figure that Jack never had.
My only issue with the film is the lack of resolution with Joy’s father Robert and reconciling his feelings towards Jack and being a grandfather under unfortunate circumstances. It would have also been nice to see Old Nick serving time in his own small room. Still I contend this is one of the best films of the year and deserves recognition come awards season. A story like this could have easily become overly melancholy and depressing. The writing is expertly crafted in a way that allows the audience to experience the turmoil, the danger, and the desperation, but it also let’s us breathe. It allows us to not just appreciate the important moments in Jack’s life, but our’s as well. Seeing the world through the eyes of a five-year-old can have that effect on you.
Synopsis: 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.
Director: Lenny Abrahamson
Writers: Emma Donoghue
Stars: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Sean Bridgers, Joan Allen, William H. Macy
Runtime: 118 Minutes