*Review includes minor spoilers
Room, as directed by Lenny Abrahamson and written by Emma Donoghue, based on her novel, is an honest and moving portrayal of the human will and the strength derived from motherhood as told through the eyes of a child.
As the film opens we find ourselves in “Room”, as the camera moves within its claustrophobic quarters, we see an array of handmade drawings and toys that are in stark contrast with the dilapidated nature of the space. Jack (Jacob Tremblay) is turning five and we spend the day with him and his Ma (Brie Larson). Jack and Ma do yoga, make a birthday cake, watch television and have a bath together, it’s as “normal” as it can be given the situation they are in, Jack even has a tantrum (as most 5 year olds would) when his cake is missing birthday candles. Through their exchanges we get a glimpse into what Ma’s true reality is, a young woman captured by a predator and locked away to be used at will by her captor, now trying desperately to create as nurturing and safe an environment as she can for the child born from her enslavement, the only thing she has left which is hers.
The triumph of room is that it tells this story from Jack’s point of view, working to both highlight the darkness and desperation of the situation he and particularly Ma are in, without subjecting the audience to what could easily have been a horror or lifetime movie that reveled in the gruesome details of Ma’s capture and continued exploitation by “Uncle Nick”.
Brie Larson is able to beautifully and tragically capture the range of emotions of a survivor of trauma in her portrayal of Ma, it would be so easy and tempting for both the actress and her director to ‘go for broke’ so to speak, it isn’t like the situation her character faces isn’t worthy of histrionics, but much like the direction and acting in another awards contender, Spotlight- even the moments that are more melodramatic are played with an underlying realism that never feels exploitative or as though they’re attempting to crush your heart with the subtlety of an anvil to the head.
Larson’s chemistry with the also brilliant Jacob Tremblay is so good they make it seem effortless, like I could walk up to a child on the street and create believable warmth and recreate award winning scenes in a flash. The work of the pair is even more commendable when you consider the difficulty of their shoot in both time and confined space. (Sorry The Revenant – you aren’t the only film allowed to play that card). The direction of Lenny Abrahamson and screenplay by Donoghue is so magical in the first half of the film that when we are no longer in “Room” I too felt the longing that Jack feels to return to their place, making the film feel slightly flat in comparison, during its second half. That being said the performance by the always welcome Joan Allen (seriously, more roles for Ms Allen please) is something to behold and her interactions with her daughter and new grandson give that second half its emotional weight.
I acknowledge that film is subjective and I usually respect and accept others opinions however the few poor reviews that Room has garnered are so off track in their analysis that I feel safe implying that these writers are morons, some claim the young child is irritating – they obviously haven’t spent any considerable time with a five year old (and this is coming from a proud DINK- double income no kids, for those not in the know). Another reviewer is confused as to why Ma couldn’t fashion an escape sooner/easier, displaying an almost insulting level of ignorance to the psychology of a kidnapped and tortured individual. I was so offended I spent a good five minutes searching for the leave a comment section of their website so I could simply ask if the review was a joke.
In the sea of awards contenders and now predictable slate of superhero films that will grace our Australian screens in the next month, take the time to watch Room which has the craftsmanship and grace to deliver a story that is hopeful despite its birth from the worst of human nature.
Director: Lenny Abrahamson
Cast: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen
Writer: Emma Donoghue