Room – 2015
Director Lenny Abrahamson
Screenplay based on the book by Emma Donoghue
Starring Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen, Sean Bridgers, William H. Macy, Tom McCamus
Joy: I am not a good enough Ma.
Jack: But, you’re Ma.
Joy (stifling a laugh and smiling as a tear falls down her cheek): I am.
There are many moments of simple, forward speaking that express much deeper emotions in the movie Room. Perhaps the best parent and child relationship I have ever seen expressed in a story takes place in the din of a small room that serves as their home for the first 5 years of the child’s life. That child, Jack (Tremblay) connects everything in his world to what his mother has told him. His mother J0y (Larson) has done her best to construct a positive environment for him out of the nightmare she has lived since she was abducted 7 years ago.
The first part of the film carefully reveals the world as Jack knows it. His narration serves to give us the details and a nuanced perspective on their life together. We all know that they are in a prison. Through Jack’s crucial perspective, we see that the room goes on forever because infinity exists in his relationship with Ma. It’s truly an amazing narration that I will remember perhaps as fondly as Jack’s own memories of his mother in this time.
Eventually Jack and his mother escape from their captivity and join the world. For her it’s a reacquaintance filled with many changes and the horrible feeling that life has forever left her in the past. Jack is afraid at first, but he grows more naturally into the new planet it feels into which it feels like he’s been thrust. Language very carefully sculpts this journey, making it much more real than just the camera angles can provide.
Joan Allen (Nancy) and William H. Macy (Robert) are Joy’s parents, now divorced. While Nancy thanks Jack for bringing her daughter back (you have to see it to understand why), Robert has a hard time even looking at the boy, knowing he is a product of the repeated rape of his daughter. This is a crucial event for Joy, as she immediately feels the weight of being stained. That she can’t relate this to her son is understandable, because he doesn’t need to know that crap. No good mother ever would pass their burden onto their child. That she can’t appreciate her own good decisions is a reflection of her father’s feelings and it weighs heavy on her. And even if her mother found a more reasonable mate (McCamus as Leo) in the years since their divorce, the effect on Joy is negligible.
Jack, however, is blossoming like a flower, carefully nurtured after a surprise discovery. His view of the world shifts daily and the net is cast a little bit wider. As his mother coaxes him out, she starts to recede inside herself. She can’t get out of the room.
Jack: I’ve been in the world 37 hours. I’ve seen pancakes, and a stairs, and birds, and windows, and hundreds of cars. And clouds, and police, and doctors, and grandma and grandpa. But Ma says they don’t live together in the hammock house anymore. Grandma lives there with her friend Leo now. And Grandpa lives far away. I’ve seen persons with different faces, and bigness, and smells, talking all together. The world’s like all TV planets on at the same time, so I don’t know which way to look and listen. There’s doors and… more doors. And behind all the doors, there’s another inside, and another outside. And things happen, happen, HAPPENING. It never stops. Plus, the world’s always changing brightness, and hotness. And there’s invisible germs floating everywhere. When I was small, I only knew small things. But now I’m five, I know EVERYTHING!
There is much beauty in the story of Room. The script, with only few exceptions, is definitely deserving of its nomination in the adapted screenplay category. The only parts that don’t work for me are the escape and the interview with the press. If one takes into account that they are just vehicles meant to forward the plot, it is easy to accept. At its best, when dealing with Jack’s viewpoint, this is as beautiful, poignant and wise as anything I have witnessed.
The acting of the two leads is similarly amazing. Brie Larson definitely deserves to be considered to be the leading candidate to take the Oscar for her role. Her approach is a mix of subtle and not so subtle emotion. To present one who cannot understand the value of her instinct and intellect in such a deeply nuanced manner is remarkable.
The best performance is hands Tremblay though. I can think of several nominees in the Actor category that he could easily replace. More often than not, child performances in film are hard to pull off, much less narration. I have never seen such a wonderful job done by someone of such a tender age. The progression of his development is as glorious as it is unassuming. We feel what he feels. We feel what his mother feels. This is a remarkable achievement. This is worthy storytelling.
(****1/2 out of *****)