There are some subjects that are hard to explore or have proven hard to explore in film. When they have been explored the films are either overly sentimental or brutally real to the point of exploitative. With the premise that the film has, which side, if any, will Room written by Emma Donoghue and directed by Lenny Abrahamson fall on.
Room is narrated by 5 year old Jack (Jacob Tremblay), who has been stuck in a room, with his mother or Ma (Brie Larson) for his entire life. They are being held by a man named Old Nick, who has kept his mother in the room for 7 years. On his birthday Ma enlists Jack in her escape plan, which is successful and once outside we watch Jack, Ma and Ma’s family (consisting of great character actors Joan Allen, William H. Macy and Tom McCamus) deal with the fall out of such a traumatic event.
On the technical side of things, the film is well constructed. It is well shot
using a hand held camera at times to somehow enhance the realism of the piece, which has become a standard for dramas now-a-days. There is also a great use of silence in the film, where the director and sound designer have such confidence in the image and performance to get a visceral emotional response. The scene where Jack and Ma reunite after being rescued from the room reduced the theatre to tears. The editing is solid as is the naturalistic lighting, but there is not much to say about that without sounding too pretentious.
However what this film is above all is an actor’s film. Room is an actor’s dream, with weighty parts for Brie Larson as the kidnapped victim and Joan Allen as the mother/grandmother relieved that her daughter has been found. These actors grasp their roles with both hands to deliver powerful and raw performances as the family tries to piece themselves back together. The lynchpin of the film is a fantastic child performance by Jacob Tremblay. One could see this film going to hell in a handbasket with a weak child actor, however Tremblay provides an innocence when it is needed, anger when it is needed. He is perhaps the most important and the best part of the entire film and it is a shame if he is not nominated for any awards this coming season.
That is not to say that the film is without its faults. As Jack and Ma leave
the room, the story starts to lose both focus and subtlety as we enter the wider world. The story becomes necessary rather than good. The plot becomes a series vignettes with a range of quality, some are good others are important and then some venture into the downright manipulative. Though this is not the worst thing that could be said about the second half of a film, it is somewhat of a disappointment from such a tight and tense first act. Similarly though Tremblay is an absolutely fantastic child actor, but the gift card philosophy gets grating after a while, with obvious statements on how big the world is. The narration also tricks audiences into thinking the film is concluding and ending when it is not. I personally thought at least three times that the film was over, when it wasn’t, a cardinal sin in a film, making an audience want it to be over.
This is an excellent exploration of the psychological ramifications of kidnap on not just the victim of the kidnap, but the wider implications of such an event. I would argue that Room, with a few stumbles into the sentimental, walks a fine line between the emotional and the real to make this film a must see for all who can.