Hello, all! I watched Room yesterday, only a day after watching the brutally depressing Grave of the Fireflies. I should’ve seen The Boy and laughed myself to death, but I’d been looking forward to seeing Room after reading the book so I chose to fill my weekend with movies about traumatized children. But, hey, at least this one had a happy ending!
Plot Summary: Ma and her five-year-old son Jack live in Room, an island of reality in a vast Outer Space. To Jack, it is a wonderful and familiar home, but to Ma, it is a prison. Ma tries her best to fill Jack’s days with normalcy: she has him run “track,” help her cook in their tiny kitchen, create crafts, and watch TV. Ma has told Jack that the people in TV are imaginary and the only people who exist in real life are the two of them and Old Nick, the man who visits Ma every few nights.
Ma keeps Jack hidden from Old Nick, but during one of his nightly visits, Jack leaves his hiding place to see Old Nick. He wakes and tries to speak to Jack, but Ma attacks him, causing Old Nick to almost strangle her to death for hitting him. It is at this point that we see the imprisonment through Ma’s eyes instead of Jack’s. Old Nick is not a man from the TV, like Jack thinks, but her violent captor, and Jack’s biological father.
Here is where the real world implodes into the imaginary Room. Determined to escape, Ma makes Jack play sick, and then dead, just to reach the outside world. Their attempt is almost ruined but for the kindness of a stranger, who alerts the police. Ma and Jack are rescued, but their problems are not over. Ma must deal with her new-found freedom, and Jack must deal with the reality of a world beyond Room.
My take: I loved the movie. Many book adaptations lose sight of the complex emotions at the heart of their original source material, but Room took those emotions and beautifully amplified them. There are clear rights and wrongs in the movie: it is wrong to imprison, it is wrong to rape, it is wrong to abuse, but there is enough ambiguity to keep the movie from becoming precious. It’s not a film about the innocent girl rescued from the claws of a monstrous evil, it’s a film about what lengths a woman will take to ensure the survival of her child, even if that means sacrificing her own dignity.
Brie Larson gives Ma the respect she deserves without making her out to be an idyllic protector. She’s harsh to Jack at times, almost resentful, but there is no doubt that she lives only for him. Jack is her savior, both physically and emotionally. At one point in the film, a TV interviewer asks Ma why she didn’t ask Old Nick to take Jack away, leave him at a hospital, so that at least he would have a life of freedom. Ma is stunned. She doesn’t embody their vision of an ideal mother, one who would sacrifice her own sanity for that of her child. But it’s easy for them to ask questions like that when they’ve never been in her position.
There are times in Room where it might seem like Ma is risking Jack’s life instead of trying to save it. Her desperation makes her almost manic, especially when she’s telling Jack that in order to escape he must be rolled in a rug and pretend to be dead. They have screaming fights, with Jack at one point shrieking that he hates her, but she’s always there to rock him until he stops crying. Ma and Jack have probably the closest mother-son bond I’ve seen in a movie. Room shows all of the ups and downs that such a bond entails.
The critics have been raving about Jacob Tremblay’s performance; those raves are well deserved. He has the type of expressive face that older actors dream of and the power to convey deep emotion with only a glance. He reminds me of Pierce Gagnon in Looper. Both of them have the potential to be outstanding actors.
Director Lenny Abrahamason has made some odd films (the strange Frank comes to mind), but with Room, he takes the strange premise of the novel and grounds it in universal themes: innocence and freedom. The story told through Ma’s eyes would be harrowing, but not an unfamiliar one; the story told through Jack’s eyes is its own unique tale. And then there’s the question of freedom. Can Ma, after losing seven years of her life to imprisonment, ever truly be free of the burden of her past life? And can Jack, who has always considered himself to be free, adjust to real freedom? The book never answers these questions and neither does the movie, but they leave you with glimpses of future happiness.
Final Consensus: Room is deserving of every accolade. Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay are fabulous. I hope it wins many Oscars. The end. Rating: 9/10 Rolled-up Rugs
I cried more times during this movie than I did throughout all of Grave of the Fireflies. And not a single child died in this movie! Does that make me an evil person?