Film review: Room

As film studios get ever more risk averse and churn out sequels or clones of successive movies to try and guarantee revenue, it has become increasingly difficult to find unique films

Dad and ‘future mom’ had seen trailers for Room at the cinema and it promised something different. So, when Brie Larson was nominated for leading actress in this movie, they put it on their must watch list

 It’s hard to pigeon-hole this movie and it’s really a tale of 2 parts. I can’t really review this movie without giving away spoilers, so if you really don’t want to know, please stop reading after this paragraph. Just now that it’s a fantastic movie with drama, tension, a study of human emotion and terrific performances from the cast. It does drag a bit in the middle part but gives a satisfactory conclusion

The movie plot is slowly revealed at the beginning, like the layers of an onion being peeled back one by one. We hear and see 5 year old Jack wake up and introduce us gradually to his ‘world’ that he shares with his ‘Ma’ – a 10 foot by 10 foot sealed enclosure. They have a full life together with Ma providing food, love, exercise and reassurance that life is normal. Of course this life isn’t normal and we gradually realise the ultimate shield of motherly love that she has used to protect Jack from the horror that she has gone through and tries to keep from him by making him sleep in the cupboard at night

 
This is no horror movie in the traditional sense but as the layers of onion are peeled back, we start to get the stench of what’s really going on. We get to share in his unveiling of the truth. Their provider ‘Old Nick’ who comes to visit at night has kidnapped Ma 7 years ago and Jack is the result of him raping Ma

  

This reality in Jack’s world dawns rapidly on him when an altercation leads to Old Nick hitting Jack when he leaves the safety of his nocturnal cupboard to protect Ma and also to him turning off their power. It’s this realisation that Old Nick is prepared to hurt them both that drives Ma to come up with an escape plan

 It’s at this point that the term ‘cruel to be kind’ has its harshest manifestation as Jack is integral to the plan. The careful bubble that she had constructed to explain Jack’s 10 foot by 10 foot world to him has to be rapidly torn down and the initial bewilderment that he experiences when his protector Ma is revealed to be a liar and the real world she talks about is none too pleasant. Dad and I loved Jacob Tremblay’s performance as Jack, hitting all the notes of innocence, shock, fear and acceptance as required. These had to be summoned from within as no one could really convey what it would be like to be Jack and we felt he was unlucky not to be nominated for an Oscar too

  

The escape scene was tense. Forget those chase sequences so beloved of blockbusters. The unbearable wait to see if Jack would successfully escape and whether Ma would still be alive is how dramatic tension should be properly created

It’s at this point that the film starts to meander and become generic, perhaps even a little self indulgent. Just when Jack delivers another beautiful soliloquy and you think that would be a nice place to end the film, it would carry on. In a perhaps ironic twist, at times during this part of the movie, I felt like a prisoner in the room of the cinema

 They could have cut the movie by about 20 minutes but insisted on showing us every cliché about reintegrating into normal society. The only thing dad and I found interesting in this section was the way the press can twist any situation for a good headline when the reporter asks whether Ma should have let Jack be rescued so that he could have lived a normal life on the outside

 We get closure by learning that Old Nick gets arrested and the movie eventually ends well with Jack getting closure and the better of the Room, choosing that his new life outside is better. The final scene where Jack asks to go back to see the room where they were held captive helps give the movie a good full stop despite the meandering in the middle. He greets the things in the room happily and Ma realises that to him, life in the room was normal for Jack and that he did have a happy life thanks to her love and thoughtfulness


Dad and ‘future mom’ were curious whether the movie is based on a real story, so I did some research. Room is a screenplay adapted by Emma Donoghue from her book of the same name. It was loosely based on the events surrounding Elisabeth Fritzl and her children in Austria where her father imprisoned her in the basement for 24 years while the rest of the family lived normally upstairs. She had 7 children while imprisoned and eventually escaped when one of her children became ill and had to be taken to the hospital

Room is a powerful film but despite its harrowing material, manages to be a film about triumph and the human spirit. Highly recommended

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