Room is a hopeful narrative tinged with crippling sadness. Its raw, emotional, unforgiving, authentic and ultimately a stunning but harrowing experience.
Room is a drama based on the novel of the same name and directed by Lenny Abrahamson. It stars Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay as a mother-son duo held hostage in a single room for over 5 years. Based on that premise alone, you would assume this is a thriller, but the focus is almost exclusively on the relationship between the pair and their interaction with the environment. This ensures its not a thriller, but an intently personal drama. Jack was born and raised in the environment he knows as ‘Room’ and his discovery of his circumstances and the world outside is both touching and even whimsical. Its a difficult environment, which leads to many charged and impassioned scenes. Honestly I cannot stress how emotional and powerful this story is. Unfortunately, due to the construction of the premise the second half isn’t quite as emotionally engaging as the first half, but discounting it for that is like saying a Ferrari isn’t fast in comparison to a jet.
Without the two core performances the film would fall apart, but Larson and Tremblay deliver on every front. I legitimately believed they were related. Its far from a perfect relationship as well – they fight, scream and struggle. But that’s what so genius. Its not the typical ‘I’ll do everything for my son’ relationship. It feels real. So real that its harrowing and raw every time you see the pair at odds. Brie Larson does incredible work as the slightly selfish but protective mother, and Jacob Tremblay feels like a real five year old (which may not sound impressive, but in a film it is). Not only that, but its incredible how well the two bounce off each other like they actually are related. The rest of the supporting cast is also excellent, but are barely worth a mention as the focus is solely on this pair.
Lenny Abrahamson’s direction is also very reserved, which helps elevate the film to another level of authenticity. There’s no flashing cinematic techniques at play here. This means it isn’t particularly innovative or interesting on a technical level which can limit some scenes to being a bit dry. However, this is mostly likely an intentional and hence smart decision. It keeps the focus on the characters instead of the film-making, which benefits both the performances and the emotion of the film. He also maintains deft control of the tone of the movie. It varys from uplifting to unsettling to whimsical in very brief instances but it never feels scattered or messy. I’d say this is mostly through the film’s grounding in reality. Since the the characters and (sadly) the story seems so real and raw, it never feels too soap-opera or manipulative. Its pure and authentic. This isn’t a true story, but it often feels like it could be. It feels real. Not only does that give the film so much more dramatic heft, but it also allows for the stark depiction of very real issues such as PTSD and strained family relationships. And the authenticity of the film makes those portrayals feel so much more powerful and sincere.
Room can be described with many similar words. Raw. Powerful. Authentic. But in reality its emotional weight cannot be summed up in simply words. But if I was to try, I’d say Room grabs your heart in a vice and drags it out of your chest into the screen. And it aches all the way.
General Audiences: Must-Watch
Film Buffs: Must-Watch
Art Housers: Highly Recommended