Review: ‘Room’ is an Emotional, Cinematic Epiphany

By October 14, 2015
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I have to imagine that when director Lenny Abrahamson finished his final cut of Room, he ran outside with the movie’s script in his hand and threw the pages into the air, shouting “Eureka!” for anyone around to hear. In a way, that is the response that Room evokes from those who watch it too, as though the movie contains in itself, an entirely new perspective on life – that by the time it ends, you can’t help but feel changed by it. This is in its purest essence, a film about life, and all of the infinitesimal ways it both lives up to, and falls short of our often weighty expectations.

The movie is told from the perspective of Jack (Jacob Tremblay) who lives in Room with his Ma (Brie Larson). The film, much like Emma Donoghue’s original novel as well, uses Jack’s voice and thoughts to show us two contrasting ideas at once. Sometimes the things Jack is saying just don’t add up, and the further you get into the story and the small, small world that is shown onscreen, the more you realize just how much Jack doesn’t know, and also how much he actually does. That’s usually the case with kids though, they know less facts than we do, but also seem to know so much more about everything else.

For Jack, Room is his entire world. It has an old TV, bathtub, toilet, bed, and wardrobe – the place he quietly waits in while Old Nick makes his nightly visits to Ma, the latter of whom has told Jack stories about space and different planets in order to protect him from the horrifying truth that surrounds them in their 10-feet by 10-feet box. It’s only as things progress and Ma begins to realize how dangerous it will continue to grow for Jack that she decides something needs to change, and fast. If not for her sake, then for her son’s.

room body image 2I won’t speak any more on the plot because what follows is one of the most breathtaking showcases of life and freedom that I’ve ever seen in a film. Emma Donoghue and Lenny Abrahamson have taken her critically-acclaimed novel and turned it into an equally-stunning movie about the relationships we form and what ties us to our lives. The movie is from a structural standpoint, basically two halves of one story, separated by one sequence halfway through that made my body begin to involuntarily shake from the tension and emotional cataclysm I was feeling inside. Critics say it all the time, but Room actually gave me chills throughout this specific sequence and if Abrahamson and Donoghue don’t receive awards attention for those 10-minutes alone, then there will be something seriously lacking from the awards shows early next year.

Brie Larson – one of the most talented young actresses in the industry today – gives one of her finest performances here. Using the script as a foundation, Larson helps to make Ma one of the most complex character of the year, as she shows the selflessness and love of a true mother, while maintaining the 17-year old girl inside that was robbed of the personal experiences so many of us take for granted. She’s one of the few actresses today who can say everything she needs to in a scene with only her eyes, and she gives the character just the right amount of nuance and subtleties to make you understand her every action, even if you might not always agree with how she handles some of her own personal strife.

Jacob Tremblay makes an impressive debut here as Jack as well, and it’s easy to see why both himself and Larson have been receiving so much awards buzz following the film’s festival premieres over the past few months. Both give performances some actors would strive for throughout their entire careers without achieving, and these two make it look easy. Although, the same can be said for the rest of the film as well.

room body imageThe two-hour run time flies by throughout, and Room will stick with you for the many weeks to follow. I remember leaving the theatre after seeing the movie for the first time though, and asking one of my fellow audience members what they thought of it, only to be surprised when they said they found the first half more compelling than the last. You’ll likely hear this from a few critics and audience members this year, but for me, the understated brilliance laid so heavily upon the film’s closing half is what has stuck inside my brain over the past few weeks more than anything else.

Thinking back on the film over the past few weeks though, I was struck by a lesson that Ma and Jack learn by the end of it, and it reminded me of a monologue that Jack Lemmon gives in Billy Wilder’s The Apartment. In an attempt to comfort the one he loves, Lemmon tells her about the time he tried to kill himself over a woman, only to accidentally shoot himself in the kneecap. It’s one of Wilder’s more brilliant moments when Lemmon states that it ended up taking him over a year for his knee to heal, but only three weeks for his heart to. This is a strange anomaly in our lives, when suddenly everything that created our world and shaped it becomes so much smaller in almost an instant. As if everything has suddenly shrunk. Sometimes all it takes is for a new door to be opened.

Room is set to hit theatres on October 16th.

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Alex Welch

Alex Welch

Alex dreams of meeting a girl with a yellow umbrella, and spends too much time* staring at a movie screen. His vocabulary consists mostly of movie quotes and 80s song lyrics. *Debatable