Room

Room photo starrating-5stars.jpgJack lives with Ma in a single-room that contains a bed, a bathtub, a small kitchen, a wardrobe, and a TV set. This is Jack’s world. It is all he has ever known. He has never set foot in the outside world. As such, he believes that Room and everything it contains are what’s real. The breadth of nature is an illusion that exists only on television. Ma indulges these fantasies because this is their life. She loves Jack with all her heart and provides a comfortable atmosphere in the most honorable manner she can. She ensures he lives a fulfilling life — physically active, mentally sound, healthy diet, limiting TV-watching time and good hygiene. She bakes him a cake to celebrate his 5th birthday. From that point on, however, things are about to change.

Director Lenny Abrahamson is an Irish filmmaker who caused indie waves in the U.S. in 2014 with Frank, a somewhat inscrutable rock & roll tale about a band whose lead singer permanently wears an oversized fiberglass head. Where that movie fabricated a setup that was avant garde and somewhat inaccessible, Room is totally the opposite. Room details the touching relationship between a parent and her child under difficult circumstances. Here Abrahamson deftly handles the scenario, keeping it from succumbing to the easy extremes of oppressive cruelty or overt sentimentality.

The environment would seem to be fairly restrictive at first, but the claustrophobic setting gives way to a boundless examination of human emotion. I dare say there is surprising nuance in the ways these conversations with Ma and Jake play out. Little 5 year old Jack is the film’s cheerful narrator. As embodied by Jacob Tremblay as her son, he radiates utter naiveté. Completely trusting and sincere, he is a wide eyed innocent. A boy with hair that has never been cut, the source of his strength he says. He has an unexpectedly sunny disposition as he explains his limited understanding of the world to us. It would be an incredible performance for anyone, but particularly impressive coming from such a young actor. He undergoes a transformation of character. That subsequent cognizance is so perfectly realized, I was floored. Brie Larson is no less extraordinary as Ma. At 25, she too registers a surprisingly mature performance as a mother with infinite devotion for her son.

Room is based on the 2010 book of the same name by writer Emma Donoghue. The Irish born-Canadian citizen adapted her own novel to pen the screenplay. In it she has done something quite remarkable. This is a meditation on love, to ponder how a parent takes the best of a bad situation and makes it presentable for their child. Rather than exploit the experience for the obvious emotional pain, she celebrates their close relationship. Impressively it doesn’t succumb to mawkishness either.

There are indeed scenes that pack a wallop, but the feelings are earned organically as the chronicle progresses. I was tearing up at various points throughout, almost sobbing at one point because the intensity of what was happening was too much to bear. As the narrative develops there’s suspense, excitement, tears and joy. I haven’t even revealed a major component of the story. I admire the production’s finely crafted restraint and have acted in kind. However know this, happiness and terror exist side by side. Author Emma Donoghue has found a unique way to detail the tender bond between a mother and her son. Room‘s exploration of love is so heartbreakingly original, it’s cathartic.

10-22-15

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27 Responses to “Room”

  1. So, did you like it? 🙂

    Wow, 5 stars. That’s rare for you. Is this your #1 film of 2015, thus far?

    I will definitely try to see it when it becomes available.

  2. “. . . keeping it from succumbing to the easy extremes of oppressive cruelty or overt sentimentality.”

    Ok, now I really have to see this.

    • I mean it’s flawless. I hope I haven’t oversold it. 😉

      • It’s kind of funny, the other day I was wondering when the first 5-star review would pop up. Haha. I don’t think this is overselling. It falls in line with a handful of things I’ve seen so far that praise its’ incredibly human take. I’m intrigued by the fact the film manages to avoid being too melodramatic (and too sentimental). Looking forward

      • Oh and Joan Allen shows up in a small but memorable part too.

  3. A Tale of Two Dans Says:

    Loved this movie. Great review. Another potential 5 starrer is Steve Jobs. That movie and the Martian have been my favourites of the year so far. But Room is definitely up there. Brie Larson is my favourite (so far) for Best Actress and Lenny Abrahamson definitely deserves a directing nod. Frank was one of my favourites last year.
    Quality stuff Mark

  4. Really amazing movie for sure. It finds a nice balance between the uplifting and the devastating, and I was absolutely captivated by Larson and Tremblay. I’m thinking Larson may end up at the top of my Best Performances list at the end of the year.

    • She’s definitely the front runner for Best Actress at the moment. I’m looking forward to Cate Blanchett in Carol and Jennifer Lawrence in Joy. I’ve been hearing good things about them as well but it will be hard to imagine a better performance than Brie Larson.

  5. Completely agree with everything said. Great review.

  6. Great review, but this movie was just okay to me. At times it felt like a Lifetime movie with Academy Award-worthy performances. I know my opinion is highly unpopular though. Meh.

  7. This sounds absolutely fantastic and I know you don’t give out 5 stars very often, so it much be extra special! Can’t wait for this!

  8. I’ve never heard of this flick, but now I’ve got to see it right away! Yet another great review. Happy Halloween !!!

  9. I saw this film in Minneapolis last week. It was the Opening Night Feature of the Twin Cities Film Fest. The day was 10-21. While I scored the film at 4 stars out of five, I am in whole hearted agreement with Mark that the peformances of both Brie Larson and young Master Tremblay were extraordinary. Indeed there very well could be some Oscar Gold for Room come next Feb 28th –

    A short quote from my own review:

    The film is both claustrophobic and courageous, caring and cruel, and Ms Larson’s performance is high-octane, combustible, as well as brilliant…

  10. Wow. Such an emotionally great movie. From start to finish I was glued to the screen. They told the story so intelligently, touching on realistic emotions by everyone involved. This better get nominations for actors and movie. 5 stars.

  11. Not shocked to hear that Room is more accessible than Frank. It strikes me as a very grounded, emotional kind of story. I’ve heard good things about the main peformances in this movie and that Tremblay’s is surprisingly mature. Larson’s maturity is something we’ve seen before though, particularly in Short Term 12. I thought she was fantastic in that, and I’m sure she is equally fantastic in this. You’ve certainly piqued my curiosity about what the “major component” is that you haven’t revealed. Sounds like I need to see this, and I probably need to prepare myself emotionally before I do.

  12. I saw ‘Room’ yesterday (release a bit delayed in Australia) and agree that the performances from the two leads were extraordinary, and the fllm is beautifully made.

    (*Spoil alert*)

    I have seen criticism of the escape, which is indeed reliant on a lot of luck on various fronts – however, that would be to criticize the original plot of the story, rather than the film’s treatment, I would have thought. I am rarely so gripped, and so viscerally affected, by a scene – just as I was when reading the book! But my only reservation – with both book and film – was a certain frustration with the second half. This is a mother who has shown the most remarkable creativity and discipline in raising and educating her child under the most horrific and potentially damaging circumstances. Somehow I didn’t feel that what followed acknowledged the depths of that resilience. Her family’s response to her return seemed very superficial to me, given the circumstances – let alone the pathetic questions from the media – though admittedly this could be an intentional commentary on the ‘wider world’ they return to. And while I liked that in choosing the child’s POV Donoghoe artfully avoids a more sordid and exploitative version of an all too recognisable news story, somehow the two halves of the film just didn’t match up for me. The first half raises so many fascinating questions about the nature of freedom, about the mother-child bond, and about what makes life meaningful, that I don’t think the second half continues/answers/responds to with the same depth. The film is a very faithful adaptation of the book, but personally I think there was scope for improving on the book in ways this film didn’t manage.

    • ** SPOILER ALERT **

      What I appreciated about the second half of the film was that it deals with the ongoing challenges of Ma and Jack’s adjustment. We think we can just pick up right where we left off with our loved ones, but sometimes things are much more complicated than that. We are supposed to be angry with her family’s response. We understand her experience. They do not. Unfortunately, people can put their own self interests before the welfare of others. Her father was particularly shown to be this way in his interaction with Jack. The thing is, how can we know we might not act the same way? It causes us to look within ourselves.

      Whew – talking about it makes me love it even more. So powerful!

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