Film Review: Room

Director: Lenny Abrahamson

Starring: Brie Larson; Jacob Tremblay; Sean Bridgers




By Hayley Skinner

Once, every so often you’ll have the pleasure of seeing a completely perfect piece of cinema. Room is that film.

Room is the story of five year old Jack (Jacob Tremblay) and Ma (Brie Larson) who are trapped in a 10ft x 10ft shed, where Ma has been captured and held for seven years, since age 17. It should be made clear straight away, this is not an easy watch. We often see Ma raped by her captor, simply referred to as Old Nick (Sean Bridgers), as Jack sleeps inside the wardrobe. Whilst their situation is seemingly hopeless and torturous to watch, the narrative still provides the audience with glimmers of life and laughter through Jack.

Screenwriter Emma Donoghue has cleverly adapted her own novel to show us this world through both central character’s perspectives. The novel allow readers to see Room and the world for the first time through Jack’s eyes and director Lenny Abrahamson captures this perfectly. Tremblay gives one of the best child performances on film, perfectly demonstrating Jack’s naivety as well as his curiosity for the outside world. When Jack wakes up on his fifth birthday, as the film opens, he introduces the audience to Egg-Snake (a snake made from egg shells), table, lamp and wardrobe and we see how large Room is to him. Abrahamson’s camera work reflects the idea that Room really is all Jack knows, and to him this is the whole world.

The success of the film rests on its two central performances and Oscar nominated Brie Larson’s Ma is the perfect contradiction to young Jack. She is damaged and depressed due to her captivity and her relationship with her son seems to be the only thing saving her. During the promotion for Room, Abrahamson wanted to make it clear that despite the subject matter this was not a thriller or an escape film. The plot itself is there to show the relationship between mother and son, and Larson is completely sympathetic as someone in this hopeless situation, which reflects so many real life cases.

When Ma eventually tells Jack the truth about Room and how Old Nick ‘stole her’, the narrative shifts and we see the relationship between the two and Ma’s own family tested. Room is full of heart wrenching moments where we as an audience feel completely hopeless and trapped like the two leads. Abrahamson seems aware of how delicate his subject matter is, and doesn’t abuse this to deliberately make you feel guilty but instead subtly provokes sympathy for Ma and Jack, whilst also making us feel uplifted through Jack’s naivety. There’s a few tense sequences throughout, but again they aren’t used to create thrills, but rather to keep you invested in Jack and Ma’s story.

Very rarely will a film make you feel so helpless yet also uplift you with moments of laughter and hope. This is the sort of life-affirming film you’ll want to tell people about and that also deserves every Oscar nomination or win coming its way.}