Based on the best-selling book by Emma Donoghue, Room deals with some tough subject matter to say the least. Dealing with themes of abduction, as well as abuse of a physical, sexual and mental nature, the film is devastating and harrowing beyond measure. It may surprise you then when I say that Room is also a heartbreakingly beautiful film, but please do bear with me.
The screenplay, which comes from the book’s original author, is essentially broken down into two halves; the first of which introduces us to the three central characters at the heart of the film, Ma, her son Jack, and the titular ‘room’, which is ever present throughout.
‘Ma’, whose real name is actually Joy Newsome, has been held captive in room – which is in fact a shed at the bottom of her kidnapper’s garden – since the age of seventeen. During that time, she has given birth to her young son and manufactured a whole story about thier existence, in an attempt to protect him.
As far as Jack is concerned, their dismal surroundings that consist of four walls, a wardrobe, toilet, bath, bed and television is their entire universe. His whole world consists of his mother and room, so when Ma decides it’s time to escape and begins to tells him of the outside world, it’s a lot to comprehend for the child.
In the first hour, which takes place solely in room, director Lenny Abrahamson creates a palpable sense of oppression. He transports you to room, where you can you feel the claustrophobia of the small space and the four walls closing in around you. It’s an intense feeling that attacks the senses: you can almost feel, smell and touch the objects in the room as if you are there yourself.
As you can imagine, this isn’t a pleasant experience. The horrors of the situation are made even more horrifying due to the recent real life events that bear a striking resemblance to this story. Room serves as a reminder that this can and does happen to people all over the world, and that’s an utterly terrifying thing to think of.
The uncomfortable first half is worth sticking out though, as Jack and his mother eventually make their escape – as this is clearly stated in the trailer and marketing, this is not a spoiler – in what is a nail-biting, edge of your seat sequence.
This is where the beauty comes into play. As the five-year old Jack lies on his back, hidden in Old Nick’s truck, and stares wide-eyed at the cold blue sky and clouds for the first time in his life, you can’t help but become emotionally overwhelmed. A large part of this is due to the sublime score from Stephen Rennicks which manages to feel gloriously sweeping and understated at the same time.
Suddenly, free of the confines of room, a wave of relief washes over you in this raw and lovely moment. Like the main characters, you feel free and can finally breath a sigh of relief for the first time in the picture.
That’s part of the genius of Room. It makes you go through the same horrors that the characters go through, refusing to shy away from the truth of the subject matter, so that when they do finally escape, you feel like you’ve been through something with them and can really get behind them.
However, whereas most abduction movies would end with the escape, this is just the beginning of the story in the case of Room. The final half of the film is devoted to Ma and Jack’s adjustment to life in the outside world, as they each try to deal with the mental scars left by their experience.
What’s encouraging is that the film isn’t there to sensationalise. This isn’t some kind of abduction thriller that’s main aim is to entertain, but rather a very human drama that explores the issues that may occur after such trauma. How do you ever come back from such an experience? Can you ever become the person you were before it? How do you deal with the nightmares and move on with your life? These are all questions that are touched upon during the film, with great sensitivity.
The final half deals with childhood innocence as we see events unfold through the eyes of Jack; as well as stolen innocence, with Joy struggling to come to terms with the life she lost once she was kidnapped.
However what shines through, perhaps more than anything else, is the unbreakable bond between mother and son. It’s their relationship, anchored by two outstanding, star-making performances from Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay, that is the beating heart of the film.
Despite the difficult first hour, Room ends up being so, so rewarding due to the love between the mother and son. It’s a beautiful thing to behold, made all the more so due to the optimistic notes that it hits toward the end. It’s incredibly powerful and touching, to the point where I’d by lying if I said I didn’t shed a good few tears.
Room does make for hard viewing in some places, but I couldn’t recommend it highly enough. Amongst the award-worthy performances, stunning cinematography and superb soundtrack, it pulsates with rich and real human emotion. It’s a tough experience, but when all is said and done, it’s one well worth going through.
Image credit to http://www.impawards.com