Room Review

Room is a 2015 drama/thriller written by Emma Donoghue, who also wrote the book the film was based on, and directed by Lenny Abrahamson. The film was touted as one of the best films of the year, snatching up an Oscar for Brie Larson and putting child actor Jacob Tremblay on the map.

Jack (Jacob Tremblay) and his mother, who he only knows as Ma (Brie Larson), have been trapped inside a room for seven years. Jacob has grown up believing that "Room" is the only world there is and the outside just can't be reached, However, when they finally do escape (it's not a spoiler, the trailer gave it away) they struggle to reintegrate into the outside world.

The entire first half of the movie takes place inside "Room", which I suppose is both a good thing and bad thing. On one hand, it creates the desire in the viewer to leave "Room" which is exactly what Ma and Jack are feeling. You can clearly see it's miserable for them there and you want them to safely escape. However, sometimes that feeling comes from the fact that several minutes can go by when nothing is happening, resulting in boredom. To put it another way, the viewer goes from "Oh, I can't believe they're still there! I really hope they get out!" to "Are we really still here? Can they please get out so something interesting can happen?" However, I can't really think of anything that I would've cut out, so I guess the issue is with me not liking slow movies rather than with the film being slow.

The two main characters, Jack and Ma, and their relationship are what drive the film forward. I really like how Ma isn't just a straight forward, cliche "fun mom"; even though she loves him she sometimes breaks under the stress, forces him to do things that scare him and even discovers that she might not have been as great of a mother as she, and we, thought she was. This might be a pretty bold statement to make, but I believe that Jack is one of the best kid characters of all time. Why? Because he's actually written like a 5-year-old; he's stubborn, emotional, frightened of the unfamiliar, naive of the domestic cruelties going on around him. The best example of how well he's written is when Ma has to explain to him that there's a place outside "Room" and he doesn't believe her. Instead, he just screams in her face and turns away, just like a normal kid would if he was suddenly forced to face existential questions of reality. Ultimately, though, their relationship is sweet and is the main focus of the story as it transforms in different, uncomfortable ways for both of them. You get really invested in what their lives will be like now that they've escaped "Room" and how others will treat them.

I really like and appreciate how they portray the outside world. Sure, once Jack gets out of "Room" it's scary for him, but never mean spirited. A lot of times in a movie, when somebody has been trapped in an environment separate from the rest of society the world is unnecessarily cruel to them and does everything they can to keep them down (call it the Coming to America effect). However, in this one, people try to do everything they can for the mother and son right out of the gate. You know, like normal human beings.

I was surprised at how few messages there were in the movie, especially because it's presented with so many opportunities for social commentary. However, the film thankfully keeps away from that and keeps the focus on Jack and Ma, helping the film from getting distracted. It's refreshingly straightforward and lacking in pretentiousness, unlike a lot of Oscar movies.

In summary, I'd say that the story and everything related to it is pretty solid except for one thing: the catalyst for the whole plot occurring, which isn't even mentioned. The whole reason they were in "Room" was because some guy kidnapped her and was keeping her in his shed. A setup as good as any, I suppose, but they never explain WHY he kidnapped her. Did he just want a free sex-toy? Was he holding her for ransom, but then just gave up when they didn't pay? What is the motivation that set the whole story in motion?? It's never mentioned, so the plot feels like it's missing a piece. Granted, this piece doesn't ruin the entire puzzle, but it still feels unsatisfyingly incomplete.

This is, once again, a minimalist film in regards to set and costume design, but it is merited. There's not much spectacle you can get out of a realistic drama where two people have been trapped in a room. However, that's not to say that no effort went into the sets, especially within "Room". The whole area is grimy, grey and putrid, helping you to firmly believe that two people have been living in it for seven years straight. The dishes are all dirty, the sink is rusty, the walls have brown wood where drywall should be and the two leads where the same exact clothes every day.

I appreciate the lack, or at least spare use, of make up on Brie Larson, letting her skin flaws like zits and birth marks show throughout. It makes sense that she A) wouldn't have make up and B) wouldn't care what she looks like with nobody around. You'd think this would be a no-brainer, but if any other director would've been at the helm I'm pretty sure they would've forgotten all about this.

The time when the film really shines is when we see the world from Jack's point of view, at least when he first escapes from "Room". Whenever we see Jack's POV everything is hazy, everything gets louder and the camera gets uncomfortably close to his face, to show how small he feels, and the faces of the other people, to create a feeling of discomfort. It's a remarkable recreation of the kind of feelings one has being lost in the grocery store as a child, trapped in a huge world with nobody to trust and mommy nowhere in sight.

The cinematography at the beginning was a little too kinetic, though. When they were in "Room" I expected the camera to remain still, since they're stuck someplace and not going anywhere and it would give the sense that what's happening is just kind of part of their monotonous existence. Instead, a lot of the camerawork is handheld, making it seem like everything is moving faster than it should. However, it does work when they're having an argument, adding to the feeling of the turbulent emotions exchanged between the two.

The acting is stellar all around. Brie Larson deserved the Best Actress Oscar because she brings all she can to the table in terms of emotion. She conveys joy, sorrow, energy, exhaustion, strength and weakness seamlessly, completely slipping into the character. At first, I thought Jacob Tremblay was just ok because he didn't show that much facial diversity. He was delivering his lines just fine, but his face rarely changed expression. However, as the film went on I realized that this kind of thing would be perfectly natural for a boy in his position, introduced to a world larger and scarier than any he's encountered and not sure who he can trust yet.

Summary: Room is a thrilling, shocking, heartwarming emotional experience. Sure, it doesn't have a lot to say, but it's got a damn good story to tell and you would be amiss to skip it.


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