Imprisoned within a 10 by 10-foot space, a young mother raises her 5-year-old son in the world that they have come to know as “Room.” Shielding her son from the truth, Ma (as she is known throughout) raises Jack as any good mother would. Nurturing and educating him as best as she can, whilst also protecting him from the presence of “Old Nick.” As much as Jack creates a universe out of Room, with growing curiosity he begins to ask Ma difficult questions. Recognising the impending danger facing her son, Ma concocts an elaborate Monte Cristo-esque escape plan. But, how can they cope in the real world?
Having read the above synopsis, if you go to see Room expecting or hoping to see a crime-thriller focussed on a kidnaping, you may be disappointed. This is not a film telling the story and capture of a Joseph Fritzel like character. It is essentially a drama focussing on the relationship between mother and son in an extreme environment. Whilst this may sound dull or at least be met with dread by some cinema goers, it must be said that Room is an incredible film. Thought provoking, enthralling and at times excruciatingly poignant, it would be highly deserving if Room goes on to win both Best Picture and Best Actress at the Oscars this month.
The key to the success of this film is in the performance of its two leads, Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay whose onscreen chemistry is mesmerising and they perfectly capture the private worlds created between parents and their children. At such a young age, Tremblay gives a raw and honest performance far beyond his years and avoids being annoying or irritating. He is as good, if not better than his peers. Meanwhile, Larson, a pillar of strength during the opening, shows the difficulties of adapting to life outside of Room and coming to terms with her years as a sex slave. As such, her portrayal of PTSD is as impressive as her relationship with Tremblay.
Clearly the focus is on these two central leads and it’s understandable why “Old Nick” remains mysterious throughout. The story is not about him after all. But it is frustrating that having left Room, other actors such as the wonderful William H Macy, get very little screen time. Perhaps though, this is an intentional decision indicating the difficult transition back to the real world, particularly for Ma.
There are so many things out here. And sometimes it’s scary. But that’s okay. Because it’s still just you and me.
If there is any criticism, it must be directed towards the use of slow motion and the in your face score. They seem fairly heavy handed and clunky in comparison to the subtle performances and general approach. Some viewers may also find the ending dissatisfying as there is not a natural conclusion to this story. But you have to appreciate that this is not a “Hollywood” film and that the scars of Room ensure that this story cannot be wrapped up at the finale. Again, as with the rest of the film the ending is subtle, but very moving.
Room may not be for everyone but it is a wonderful piece of cinema about an incredibly difficult subject. Its two leads give wonderful performances and it is moving and poignant without being schmaltzy. It will be no surprise if this film goes on win Oscars.
Reviewed by David Sanders