Written by Emma Donoghue
Directed by Lenny Abrahamson
Jack lives in Room with his mother. Outside of Room is Outer Space and the TV Planets which Jack can see on the small television they have. Every Sunday, Old Nick delivers presents, and Jack has to sleep in Wardrobe. But then one day, Jack’s mom reveals the truth to him: that there is another side of the wall to Room, the World. She tells Jack how Old Nick stole her when she was a teenage girl and that there are a Grandma, Grandpa, and a whole world outside of Room. His mom wants to escape and needs Jack’s help, but he is scared of this new mysterious world and will need to find the strength inside him to help her get out.
I approached Room with some skepticism. When I first viewed the trailer, I developed some preconceived notions, and after the Oscar buzz that came to surround the film, I became even more distant from the idea of watching this film. Again, it is a film where the premise feels like a movie of the week or something that is intended to be Oscar bait. What causes Room to shake off these tropes is the director’s deft hand with pulling strong performances out of his actors.
Brie Larson, who plays Jack’s mother Joy, won an Oscar for Best Actress for this role. It’s very easy to see why because she finds great nuance in her character. When we first see Joy, she has settled into a routine which then degrades into hopelessness finally transitioning into a frenzied sense of purpose in recruiting her five-year-old son into escape plans. Moreover, this is all in the first act of the film, with each switch in her emotions happening so seamlessly and beautifully. In the rest of the film, she continues a very realistic portrayal of how a person in captivity would transitioning into the outside world, which has many speed bumps and becomes a grieving process about time lost.
Jacob Tremblay was the great discovery to come out of Room and rightly so. He does a very believable job as a child wholly absorbed into the realm of the imaginary his mother has fostered inside him as a method of avoiding the real nightmare of their situation. He also becomes withdrawn when faced with the overwhelming sensory input and interactions with people of the outside world. I always say the best actors can convey emotion while being completely silent. Some line deliveries sound like child actor emoting, but it’s not prevalent enough to disengage you from the film.
There were so many small moments in Room that raised beautiful concepts, but the film remained from the perspective of Jack. Joy has an awkward encounter with her father about Jack’s parentage. We never see the entire fallout of this argument because Jack is not privy to its outcome. The whole story is seen through Jack’s eyes, all the wonderful and all the ugliness. Room stands as another A24 film that rose up out of the rest of the movies they produced or distributed. It marks a significant shift for the company into a powerhouse supporter of cinema that presented different perspectives and exposed the wide release audience to great filmmakers.