Both a tribute to a child’s wonder and a mother’s unconditional love, Room is one of the years elite films. Jack (Jacob Tremblay), a lively 5 year-old, is comforted and loved by his mother, Ma (Brie Larson). She takes care of him and dedicates herself to keeping him happy and safe. Familiar on the surface, but Jack and Ma are trapped in a windowless space called “Room.” Most of the film is told through Jack’s eyes, which allows us as an audience to be filled with child-like wonder about the world.
“Room” is all that he thinks is real. Even in a 10×10 space there is amazement. Director Lenny Abrahamson brings naturalistic qualities to the film-making that allows a poetic realism and is intensely emotional. Overwhelming, even. I heard quite a few people crying and an applause worthy moment left my body with goosebumps for about 10 seconds. That’s pretty special.
Jacob Tremblay as Jack is what they call a “revelation.” Brie Larson as Ma is also what they call a “revelation.” Their performances anchor the film and trap us in their harrowing situation. POV is so important here both for character and theme. But it’s the inverse of what you’d expect. The first half shows us wonder, and it’s because of Jack, while the second half shows us horror, and it’s because of Ma.
I’m reminded of Alice in Wonderland, which is referenced in the film. Getting lost down a rabbit hole or your life not going the way you’d imagined when you were a child is universal. Room is a devastatingly all too real version of Alice’s story that also works as a metaphor for how time and regret imprison us all. You can feel the loss both physically and psychologically.
There’s one semi-important character I felt tipped into caricature territory, but since this is mostly told through a child’s eyes it’s not a huge deal. I wanna be extra light on spoilers here, but I feel safe saying the two of them eventually plan to escape “Room.” As the film went on I became acutely aware that whether your world is a 10×10 box or an entire planet, life is terrifying. It’s one of the best films I’ve ever seen about Plato’s Cave.
There’s a point where unfortunately the story can’t do much more and lacks the fluidity of the first 3/4ths. The ending is abrupt and another couple scenes or restructuring would’ve tightened it. With the child’s POV, I felt a vagueness at times that left certain elements at arms length and untapped. Nonetheless, Abrahamson and writer/author Emma Donoghue send the audience through an emotional wringer and our deep investment pays off nicely. For a film with such dark psychological subject matter, it’s shocking how graceful and poignant it can be.
Tremblay and Larson are BOTH shoe ins for awards. There’s acting and then there’s ACTING and THEN there’s what these two are doing. Excuse that hyperbole, but, ya know, they’re both pretty great. Tremblay will certainly win the cutest kid award. I’m not a fan of Oscar bullshit, but if I was going to predict a Best Picture winner, it’d be this. Room is a solipsistic POV of the world that tiptoes between wonder and horror. An eloquent, sometimes stilted drama that’s equally imaginative and terrifying, but ultimately life affirming.
Please please please go see it!