Every so often, I see a film that hits raw nerves to such a degree, causing me to be emotionally gripped to the point that I will essentially overlook any other flaws. This is definitely the case with Lenny Abrahamson’s Room (not to be confused with notorious so-bad-it-has-a-cult-following The Room).
An extraordinary central performance from Brie Larson looks deservedly set to win an Oscar, yet we experience the story through the eyes of Larson’s five year old son Jack (Jacob Tremblay). Larson’s character (simply called “Ma” for much of the film) has been abducted and imprisoned in the “room” of the title. Jack is a product of rape, though I must be very clear at this point – this is absolutely not an exploitation film in any way shape or form. This issue is not ducked, but no sexual abuse takes place onscreen at all. The film handles every aspect of its difficult subject matter tastefully, through Jack’s innocent eyes, in a way that actually makes it all the more quietly devastating. Again I cannot stress this enough: do not be put off by the subject matter. The only thing that might be deemed offensive in the film are a few contextually justified f-words.
Anyway, the plot rapidly and brilliantly establishes how Ma has told Jack, to protect him, that the world outside the room is outer space, and that the things he sees on television (birds, trees, etc) are not real. When circumstances involving their captor (whom they simply refer to as “Old Nick”) cause them to try and plan an escape, Ma then begins to tell Jack the truth.
Room is so brilliantly directed by Abrahamson (with a screenplay by Emma Donoghue, adapting her own novel), again, through Jack’s eyes, that it becomes a very positive, empowering experience; a heartfelt journey of discovery and wonder. The film doesn’t duck the appalling psychological damage that has been done to this boy, but it is ultimately, at its core, a profoundly moving study of the immensely powerful bond between mother and son. There is one sequence just shy of the halfway point that had me in absolute floods.
Yes, it could be argued that the more episodic second half lacks the momentum and tightly constructed drama of the first, with certain characters (such as William H Macy’s grandfather) hinting at plot threads that ultimately go nowhere. Speaking of Macy, it’s worth noting there are some other good supporting actors here, including Joan Allen and Tom McCamus.
In summary, despite its flaws, you’d have to have the emotional range of a concrete breezeblock not to be moved by Room. I highly, highly recommend it.