The Room review: Brie Larson’s race to an Oscar has begun…
I’ve always expressed that film is one of the true art mediums that if done perfectly, you can create something truly special and Lenny Abrahamson’s film adaption of Emma Donoghue’s critically acclaimed novel, Room, is just that. Room focuses around a young woman called Joy (Brie Larson), also known as Ma, and her five year old son Jack (Jacob Tremblay) who have been held captive in a garden shed known as room, after Joy was kidnapped by a man referred to as Old Nick (Sean Bridgers). After being in the room for seven years, Joy is itching to get out and give Jack the life he deserves.
The subject matter of Room is sadly very common nowadays. Every year we hear stories of women who have been held captive by men and are forced to bare their children. These stories are very dark and Abrahamson rightfully doesn’t beat around every aspect of these stories in creating Room. We spend the half of the film locked in the room with Joy and Jack, caught with them in this claustrophobic space. You see the struggle that the two must encounter on a daily basis and the enclosed nature of both the set and the shots help the audience connect with the characters in far more superior way than most films can only dream about. The look of the room set is exactly what you expect from when you hear stories about these women. It’s small, dirty, soundproofed and has no windows, with a skylight being the only source of the real world. In the room, Abrahamson uses closer shots, but when Joy and Jack break out of the room and into the world, the shots are wider, allowing the audience to discover the world at the same time as Jack. Abrahamson’s visual and creative style is taken to a whole level in Room. You can still identify that this is from the same director of films like What Richard Did and Frank but at the same time, you can experience a new journey that Abrahamson is taking us on for. Room is the defining moment of Abrahamson’s career.
The connection the audience is able to have with Joy and Jack is exceptional, as everyone can find something that they connect to through the characters. For myself, I was able to connect to the moment where the power is cut and Jack can see his breath, and begins saying “I’m a dragon.” I did that a lot when I was young and I’m sure others did too. The dialogue of the film is the bridge for connecting characters and audiences together. The script is honest, brutal and witty at times, ultimately making the characters more human. The script also showcases the aspects of these stories that never really covered in the press. Being born in the room and never leaving it, leaves Jack with this strange naivety about what is real and what isn’t. The idea of a five year old who doesn’t believe that cats are real and everything that happens on TV is magic and that he is one of the very few people in the world is both sad and fascinating to experience. Jack’s belief about the world infuses the film with a more extraordinary childlike view of the world when he’s both in the room and out in the world. It strangely enough gives you a new outlook on the world as we know, gives the world a new sense of wonder that we lose as we get older. But while the film does showcase the wonders of the world, it also shows the darker side of life. Joy is of course damaged mentally and physically from her experience in the room, and coming out into the real world after seven years has done things to her. She suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and has a deep worry for her life and giving Jack a normal life too. Her drug overdose late in the film is a darker view of the struggle these women have to encounter when normalising to the real world again. Room isn’t afraid to show the deeper psychological issues these women can develop after an experience like that, and the film, the script and the original novel have to applauded for bringing issues like these to light.
Room has a lot of strong awards buzz and front and center of that for the film is Brie Larson, and rightfully so. I’m a fan Larson’s work and have followed her career closely from Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, all the way to her star making performance in Short Term 12, which I still believe she should have been nominated for. Larson has a diverse career but Room is her biggest step in becoming Hollywood’s next big star. Her portrayal of Joy is pure perfection, she tugs at your heartstrings with a heartbreaking performance of a woman who will do anything to care for her son and make sure he has a normal life. Her drive is inspirational and you constantly root for her to get better and begin enjoying her life again. Her ability to look less glamourous for the role and show a different side to herself is wonderful to watch and purely awe-inspiring to be in the presence of. Room is the film to finally launch Brie Larson into the stratosphere of Hollywood and make everyone take notice of her.
Someone else everyone is about to take notice of is Jacob Tremblay, who plays Jack. Despite being so young, Tremblay puts in an incredible performance, as this naïve boy is both fascinated and scared of the world. While only being nine, Tremblay is very mature for his age, having to deal with difficult scenes some older actors would struggle with and is able to hold his own with Larson in confrontational scenes between the two. Tremblay looks set to become one of Hollywood’s top child stars and if he continues to grow as an actor, could one day become one of Hollywood’s top actors. Room also offers wonderful performances from the rest of the cast. Sean Bridgers eerie portrayal of Old Nick is scary to watch, as you realise how dangerous this man is, especially when he attacks Joy early in the film. Joan Allen puts in a strong performance as Joy’s mother and is worthy of a nomination in the supporting actress category. Her balancing act of being a supportive mother to a damaged Joy and a supportive grandmother to Jack is a wonder to behold. William H. Macy makes a nice cameo as Joy’s father, who struggles to deal with the fact that his daughter is not only alive but has a son. Room has some of the best performances around at the moment and collectively is one of the best ensemble performances this year.
Room is on a level of beauty unmatched to anything else released this year or this awards season. It is a defining film for everyone involved, it’s visually stunning, written in the best and honest way possible and is a joy to watch, despite the darker issues addressed in the film. But while everyone is great, especially young Tremblay, Room belongs to Brie Larson. While Short Term 12 was her star making moment, Room is the career making and life altering moment for this fantastic actress. Her race to an Oscar has begun and she deserves it more than anyone else. Larson has helped to create a film that is truly special and make a film that is the personification of what a film should, smart, compelling and ultimately leaving you with a big smile on your face.
Room review by Sean Narborough, October 2015.
Room plays at the BFI London Film Festival, and will be released on the 16th October, 2015 in the US, and the 15th January, 2015 in the UK.