Directed by Lenny Abrahamson. Ireland. 2015. R. 118 minutes. A24. Digital.
Sat., January 23, 2016 thru Thu., February 4, 2016
“What is reality? For Ma and Jack, the mother and just-turned-5 son played with breathtaking might and magic by Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay, reality is a 10-by-10-foot shed, locked from the outside, a small roof window letting in a square of sky.
In Room – written by Emma Donoghue, adapting her bestseller of the same name, and directed by Lenny Abrahamson – this is the place where parent and child live. She has been imprisoned for seven years. He has lived there since birth. His captor, his mother’s abductor, has his DNA. Old Nick, as he’s called, provides them with food, clothes, supplies. And he still pays nocturnal visits – the boy asleep in a closet as the kidnapper rapes again.
If Room sounds like a horror story, well, it is – and it isn’t. Donoghue’s riveting drama is a celebration, of the bonds between a mother and a child, as they create their own world, a safe world, within the walls of “Room.” This is the only life that Jack has known, and for him, Room and the things in it are reality in its entirety. He addresses the objects and furnishings – Lamp, Sink, Bed, Plant – as if they had souls.
Tremblay, his eyes wide with wonder and curiosity, immerses himself in the pretend life of this kid and his mom. Only 8 when he made the movie last fall, Tremblay’s innocence, fearlessness, and commitment are astounding.
Larson, who brought great warmth and empathy to her role as a counselor to troubled teens in the 2013 indie Short Term 12, takes things to a whole other level in Room. Her Joy – Joy Newsome is the name she had before she was grabbed off the street and taken away – is a committed parent, making sure her boy eats well (as well as he can, given what Old Nick brings them), does his exercises, brushes his teeth, steers clear of the man who punches in the keypad code to open the door.
If you haven’t read the novel or seen the trailers or TV spots for Room, I recommend that you stop reading this review right here, right now. Why ruin the sheer thrill, the suspense? But even if you know the outcome, director Abrahamson will have you in his grip. The escape from Room is riveting, pulse-pounding. (All I can say is hooray for people who walk their dogs.)
And then Room is no longer the only world Jack knows. There is another, bigger, scarier place out there, with other people, families, kids. Joan Allen and William H. Macy play Joy’s parents, Jack’s grandparents, and Tom McCamus is a family friend whose presence becomes integral to Jack’s rehabilitation, his reentry. Only it’s not a reentry – he’s entering it all for the first time.
In its second half, then, Room becomes a story of recovery and healing, grappling with the aftershocks of trauma, the guilt, the shame. Not just for Joy and Jack, but for the parents who had to endure their daughter’s long disappearance, the fear that she might be dead.
Amazingly – and this movie is amazing – Room is a story of hope, of possibility. Sure, your stomach will be in knots, your fingers clenched, your heart racing. But it will also fill that heart with a sense of the goodness, the courage, the enduring love that is out there to be discovered – and to be held onto with the fierceness of life itself.” (Steven Rea, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
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