So, so much going on here. I like films with simple core ideas that resonate with me and make me ponder them for days afterwards. I’m still pondering Room but largely because its social commentary is far-reaching, hitting on many topical issues – in a way, now is the perfect time to make this movie.
Lenny Abrahamson directed 2014’s Frank which I absolutely loved. The quirky dialogue, anti-use of Fassbender and the genre of the film really captured my attention and now having worked with Annapurna pictures and The Weinstein Company, Abrahamson’s career is on the up and up. Room is an emotional rollercoaster on the screen and in your heart; if you don’t feel for or relate with the character you’re supposed to in one scene there are plenty more gripping performances edge of frame or in the next scene that’ll be sure to get you. Maybe that’s what’s wrong here..
Brie Larson and young Jacob Tremblay play Ma and Jack; Jack is 5 now, he’s lived his entire life in Room (and his mother another 2 years prior) which as far as he knows is the extent of the world. At 5 years old we can comprehend our surroundings, we can socialise and we’ve already developed half a personality – so has Jack but his perception of life as incredibly different and interesting. Resembling a long lost little broski of the family from 2015’s The Wolfpack in both looks and early life freedoms, Jack’s isolation as expected manifests its effects in making him a very inward-looking character – too much so far a child his age – and this is shown to us through his innocent narration. Reeling off his thoughts we discover Jack has named every item in Room, he loves his mum oodles but still yearns for contact with other forms of life so much so he invents a dog for himself out of plasticine and tries to befriend a rat. Ma is all too aware of Jack’s environment stunting his social skills and explains the world outside Room to him in terms only a lock-in like Jack could understand, it’s endearing, really.
Cinematically the whole film is crafted spectacularly well. There’s a clear 3 act structure that moves a little too quickly for my liking and leaves me expecting the film to end at the wrong time on several occasions due to its multiple crescendos. The space in Room feels measured with multiple pans and high/low shots and POV close-ups are used sparingly to put you in the character’s head at the right times. Conversely, in the film’s other locations, spaces feel extremely wide and open with a home-video feel at times which really draws a contrast to the Fincher-esque shots in Room.
As I mentioned earlier there is a lot going on here. It does seem like everything from the source material was squeezed in – just. We go from a very cerebral character study immediately into a scathing portrayal of the media and then whisked into trauma, mental illness and the effect on the families (how much is staying strong worth, how the little things make a big difference etc.) and all the while sentimentally regarding Jack as he re-evaluates his life constantly. Heck, the film’s best sequence at around the halfway mark had me feeling like I was watching a heist film. The film is literally all over the place, but it does hold it together really well creating several great scenes and not really any bad ones.
The hidden gem or secret selling point of the film though is the performances as I think many might see this for the plot alone. Jack is engaging and interesting, Brie Larson as Ma draws more empathy from me than her character in Short Term 12 did for her patients and really demonstrates her ability in several brutal emotionally charged scenes and will likely receive an Oscar nod.
All in all, the film is solid and air tight like the shed in Old Nick’s back garden. I left happy for seeing the film, and looking forward to the director’s next. I left, loving Larson even more.
In fact I’m just glad I was allowed to leave, could you imagine being locked in a cube for say, 5 years?