Room is one of those films where you really want to go in knowing as little about it as possible. From a plot perspective anyway. That is unless you have read the best selling book upon which it is based. Because there are some popular film sites out there, who shall remain nameless, who have a plot synopsis of Room that utterly destroys about fifty percent of the film. Suffice to say this review will not do that.
Jack (Jacob Tremblay) is your typical five-year-old boy. He loves his Ma (Brie Larson), has an inventive imagination and asks an endless stream of questions. But Jack’s life is very different from most boys his age in so far as the only world he knows is that within the small room that he and his mother occupy. Every Sunday Old Nick (Sean Bridges) brings them food and a treat. But Jack is never allowed to interact with Nick, instead when he arrives Jack is expected to be asleep in the wardrobe in Room.
If the premise sounds a little creepy and related to the case of Josef Fritzl then that is intentional. Based on the book, and scripted, by Emma Donoghue, Room could so easily be a horror film. The kind that an Eli Roth would splatter with all manner of bodily fluids while having you wince at every slushy, crunchy flesh-tearing sound effect. But Room is in fact a heartfelt, often chilling drama about a horrific situation seen through the eyes of a child who knows nothing else beyond the four walls he lives in. Imagine, if you dare, The Shawshank Redemption seen through the eyes of a child.
What director Lenny Abrahamson and Donoghue have conjured is a film that takes you on a roller-coaster of emotions, teasing you with hope, suffocating you with anticipation and ultimately allowing you to see things through the eyes of a child who simply wants to be with his mother. Given the confines of the film’s setting Abrahamson makes Room our whole world, we live and breath it with Ma and Jack. Director of photography Danny Cohen, Oscar nominated for his work on The King’s Speech, presents the room as dank and oppressive but every now and then elevates it to something else, something grand and potentially beautiful – if it weren’t for the terrifying reality it represents to us but is all too lost on Jack.
There are several moments in Room that are likely to have you claiming to have something in your eye and the genius behind these moments is that no two are the same. They touch upon a series of ever fluctuating emotions in such a way that if it nailed one it would be impressive, to accomplish multiple so differently is to be celebrated.
Part of these emotions stem from two stunning central performances. Brie Larson has long since established herself as an actress of vast talent. Room once again gives her material to sink her teeth into and she delivers the kind of performance that should have awards ceremonies around the world preparing their engraving tools to etch her name into the history books. As Ma she is fiercely protective, often frustrated and maternal in ways that beggar belief. Opposite her, Tremblay is a revelation. His innocence and bravery capture your heart in ways actors of this age rarely, if ever, do. Abrahamson should be applauded for having the courage to cast someone so young and then coax such an intoxicating performance from him. It is the kind of role that at first glance has precocious, irritant written all over it but what Tremblay does is bring levels of believability that most young stars refuse to offer up on screen. The chemistry between Larson and Tremblay is a unique selling point to Room and one that wraps you up in such a way as to take you on this harrowing journey with them as dependable companions.
Room is a film that packs a huge punch, it will leave you traumatised and wondering how on earth you survived it by playing on your every emotional being. No need for room for improvement, this Room is simply stunning.