Room seemed like a fantastic idea for a movie and story when I first heard about it – it was sort of topical, given the sort of recent true events which it shares similarities with, the single setting was intriguing from a cinematic and plot perspective, and it began getting rave reviews from everyone before picking up a bunch of Oscar wins and nominations. Unlike a lot of recent obvious Oscar movies, this was one that applied to me immediately.
Room follows the lives of Joy (Brie Larson) and Jack (Jacob Tremblay), a mother and son who live in ‘Room’ – held captive by an abusive man. In the early stages of the film we are given little explanation or history to their predicament but it is soon revealed that Joy has been there for years after being kidnapped; Jack was conceived, born, and raised there as the product of rape – he has never been outside of these four walls and knows nothing of the outside world. Over the course of film we see the world though both sets of eyes, one of fear and one of wonder, and how these viewpoints change and narrow and adapt when circumstances change. Spoilers will follow.
It is surprisingly early in the movie that Joy and Jack escape from ‘Room’. I was expecting protracted scenes of attempted escape where tension builds alongside hope, only for the latter to be dashed. In reality the story is split in two rough halves – in and out. On the outside, we see how the two cope with either reuniting with family or meeting them for the first time. We see how it is a struggle for everyone impacted – an honest and accurate depiction of how such events can ripple out and affect so many people in a destructive way. In many ways the outside world seems cruel, with Joy and Jack completely displaced from time and reality. There is a media frenzy surrounding the story, and the quest for ratings seems as cold and uncaring as a kidnapper. It is Jack who adapts to the new world more readily after a cautious and frightened start, while the joy of freedom soon becomes a dizzying puzzle for Joy.
And yet, it isn’t perfect. There are things I didn’t like about Room – but possibly the best thing I can say about it is that I can’t recall clearly what those things are now, a few months after having watched it. I don’t feel like the William H Macy scenes were handled well, leaving me cold and disinterested, and I didn’t find it nearly as emotionally powerful as I was expecting it to be; The highs never feel exuberant and the lows never feel too bleak. The script is merely serviceable and I can’t imagine the film would have been significantly better or worse in the hands of a greater or lesser director. As it stands, the film is so strong because of the lead performances and because of the story – the cruelty of the situation – holds a morbid and curious interest throughout, while the leads are never less than stunning, pulling the empathy and emotion where the script is lacking. Whether the film retains its acclaim years from now will be seen, but the performances will always be heralded.
Let us know in the comments what you thought of Room? Did it deserve the accolades it received and will it still be as potent in five or ten years time, or is it merely a Hallmark TV movie dressed in fancier clothes?