"Room" Review

Title: Room 
Director: Lenny Abrahamson 
Studio: A24 
Genre(s): Drama 
Rated: R (For language)

How would it feel to be trapped in a room your entire life? I remember when I got into a fender bender with someone in a parking lot last year. I wasn't at fault so her insurance was going to pay for all the repairs, but that did mean a few days of being stuck at home without a car to drive places. That few days turned into a week and a half, and I felt like I was going crazy in that short amount of time. So the idea that someone would spend at least five years in a small room without any contact with the outside world just boggles my mind. That is the concept behind “Room” though. When the film begins we see our two main characters waking up in a cramped room ready to begin the day. These two people are Ma (Brie Larson) and her five year old son Jack (Jacob Tremblay).

We see them begin their day by taking a bath together, playing hide and seek, and sometimes Jack watches TV (which is the only thing they have to see what's going on in the outside world) while Ma cooks dinner. They never leave the room. Once in awhile a man known as Old Nick (Sean Bridgers) shows up with food to eat, but otherwise there is no one else. Ma and Jack literally live in their own world and no one else enters it. Amazingly, the world they live in looks like a lot of fun. They have a loving relationship, they (obviously) spend a lot of time together, and everyone seems happy. Really, the only thing that stands out as being strange to the viewer is the question of why these two never leave their confined space. Is Ma just overprotective?

The answer is much sadder than we originally believe. Roughly seven years ago, Ma (whose real name is Joy) was kidnapped by Old Nick and placed in this room. She can't get out and he shows up to continually rape her. Jack was actually the result of one of the rapes, and he ended up being the one good thing in her life that she had to live for. The interesting thing about “Room” is that direction wise, this film is a masterpiece. The movie was directed by Lenny Abrahamson, who loved the novel this was based on so much he wrote a letter to the author and practically begged her to let him make a movie of it. Whatever she saw in him was well worth seeing, as he had the difficult task of making a compelling character drama in a limited space that needed to look inviting and intimidating at the same time.

The audience has to take special interest in these characters, and I am amazed to find that I was very interested in these two people long before I found out what the actual conflict of the film was. It wasn't just the interesting direction that was responsible for this though. Both Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay are excellent in their roles, and have to carry a movie much more than most actors have to. They have to be likable, engaging, and complex, all without leaving the room or having many other people to even talk to. On the off chance they don't get to leave the room they have to be compelling enough to root for throughout the rest of the film. These are some sever story handicaps the film manages to overcome. I also have to give props to the screenplay. As someone who had read the book before, I read it with the notion that if it was ever made into a movie it wouldn't be a very interesting one.

The whole setup just felt like it was doomed to failure in movie form, and I couldn't picture anyone being able to make this story engaging enough for our ADD riddled society. To some extent I still feel this will be a hard watch for some people. This is certainly a movie that takes its time in developing what is happening and moments of pure excitement are rare. Even the premise feels like it should be a book rather than a film. However, the screenplay adaptation is very solid, and it should be pointed out that screenplay adaptation was by Emma Donoghue, the woman who penned the original novel! It's always encouraging to find an author who understands her work so thoroughly she can make it work in multiple mediums.

The end results are very harrowing in some places and liberating in others. This is a movie that is tense with depression yet finds hope within itself. When hearing the premise of the film it just sounds like it's going to be a true bore because very few films begin with as many limitations on its full potential as this does. Thankfully it was directed by a confident visionary, acting with true professionals, and written by the one person who understands the material better than anyone. Many other films would find themselves shackled with the limitations this story provides them with. In the case of “Room” those very limitations bread freedom and inspiration, which was the biggest joy to discover while watching all this.

Parents, there is some strong language and a scene where sex is strongly implied. Recommended for ages 17 and up.