Starring Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen, Sean Bridgers, Tom McCamus, and William H. Macy
Directed by Lenny Abrahamson
I had such high expectations for Room simply based on its initial reviews and a broad concept of the story that I tried as hard as I could to stay away from learning anything about it prior to seeing the film -- and somehow I achieved that goal, not even watching a trailer for the film. So, with that said, if you'd like to have as "pure" of an experience as me, perhaps you should stop reading now. For those who wish to continue, be prepared for some gushing.
Told in essentially two acts, Room details the story of five year-old Jack (Jacob Tremblay) and his Ma (Brie Larson). Jack and Ma (whom we later learn is named Joy) live in a ten-by-ten room, never glimpsing the outside world except for the sky through a small skylight. As we wonder why these two people are stuck in this tiny place, Joy's story is gradually revealed and we come to understand that she was kidnapped as a teenager and has been held captive for seven years. Jack has never once been outside Room (as he calls it) and his Ma has made up a variety of stories to tell him about how everything outside of Room is fake and their abode is the only thing that's real. Every Sunday evening, Old Nick (Sean Bridgers) pays a visit, bringing Jack and Ma's weekly allotment of food, but Ma never lets Jack meet Old Nick, forcing Jack to go to bed behind doors in Wardrobe whenever he is due to arrive. Needless to say, despite bringing them sustenance, Old Nick isn't a good guy and on Jack's fifth birthday, Joy begins to have the courage to contemplate an escape plan.
Imagine seeing the world for the first time -- quite frankly, we can't even begin to contemplate what the cacophony of sounds, the frenetically paced movement, and the sheer brightness of something as commonplace as sunlight would be like to us if we were seeing it for the first time. So imagine how little five year-old Jack feels upon stepping outside Room for the first time. Not only is he seeing the world for the first time, but he's also dealing with the fact that for five years, his mother has told him that Room is real, while outside Room is fake. Pitch-perfectly portrayed by young Jacob Tremblay, we as adults are taken in by the nine year-old actor who is depicting the awe-inspiring, frightening, and bewildering emotions of his character with such precision and childlike innocence that it's a wonder this little guy hasn't been on the cinematic radar sooner. The youthful zest for curiosity is ever-apparent in Jack, and Tremblay -- who is just as much a lead as his counterpart mother -- deserved to be recognized by the Oscars rather than be ridiculously overlooked. (Admittedly, one of the reasons for this is that the film studio was marketing him as a supporting actor while he is very much the lead here which may have led to some split voting amongst Academy members unsure of which category in which to place him.)
Brie Larson popped onto my radar with the brilliant Short Term 12 -- my #2 movie of 2013 (it's streaming on Netflix so there's no excuse for not seeing it) -- and her choice of Room as her next "serious drama" was yet another reason this flick was on my Must See 2015 Movies. Room is really a tale of two movies for the actress. In the first half, despite obviously being deprived of the outside world, she exudes both a strong will for survival and a desperately loving demeanor to her son to whom she is his only source of communication, compassion, and contact. By the time that second act rolls around, though, Larson is able to really run a gamut of believable and thought-provoking emotions -- some that I wasn't expecting despite all of them being perfectly legit. Obviously, it was going to be a change of pace -- and a difficult one at that -- acclimating her son to the world outside of Room, but Joy never could have expected how difficult it would be for her to return home to her mother (Joan Allen) whom she hadn't seen since her teen years. I found it utterly fascinating to see Larson's Joy almost revert back to her stubborn seventeen year-old self once the weightiness of the real world -- and the choices that led to her being captured and those she made while being captured -- began to reign down on her.
Larson in particular owes a huge part of her character's depth and intricate emotions to screenwriter Emma Donogue who is adapting her own novel (which I now cannot wait to get my hands on). Donogue nails the tricky and tenuous emotional roller coaster for not only Larson and Tremblay's characters, but also for Joan Allen whose role as Joy's mother and Jake's grandmother is also a delicate balancing act. Without ever feeling strained or cloying, Donogue's script is a riveting one, packed with heart, compassion, and gutsiness.
Director Lenny Abrahamson is not a name I am particularly familiar with and his one prior film I had seen -- Frank -- didn't quite gel. Fortunately, everything comes together here brilliantly. Not only does Abrahamson master the mother/son emotional relationship, but he proves that he's also a master of creating suspense thanks to the edge-of-your-seat nature of Jacob and Joy's escape from Room -- a ten minute sequence that runs the gamut of emotions from fear to joy to sadness to compassion. Considering that the first hour of the film takes place entirely within the confines of Room, Abrahamson keeps the audience riveted and fascinated by the proceedings, and once we step outside of Room, the film doesn't lose any momentum.
A lot of times when I see a movie I really like, I hold off on writing my review as I'm not quite sure how I want to frame my thoughts. With Room, it was the exact opposite. I wanted to hash this one out as quickly as possible to get out "on paper" the emotional impact this flick had on me. I can't recommend this one highly enough. Get yourself to Room immediately -- I think I'll be heading back as well. As I said in my first sentence of this review, this was a film I didn't want to end. I wanted to find out more about all of the film's inhabitants as I rooted for them to find the happiness they so richly deserved.
The RyMickey Rating: A