Room is a film that got a lot of notice earlier this year around Awards season, but I never really knew much about it. It came and went. Brie Larson picked up an Academy Award for it. Ok, so what’s the fuss?
Room is about a mother and son, Joy (Brie Larson) and Jack (Jacob Tremblay), as we follow their lives as they live in a single room called ‘Room’. We find out that Joy was kidnapped and has held captive by Old Nick, an older man, who has kept her there for 7 years and routinely by to use Joy for sex and provide her (and Jack) with food. Jack lives in blissful ignorance and has not known anything except Room, and has a lively imagine within the room. When an opportune time arrives to fool Old Nick and make an escape, Joy and Jack eventually leave Room and struggle with adjusting to life outside, which for Jack, is a whole new frontier.
Room starts out quite slow. For the first ten minutes I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to hang in there. It has moments of narrative focus by the young boy, Jack, as he lies in his closet-bed. I found these moments slightly annoying, and it felt like the movie wasn’t really going anywhere. Yet the narrative suddenly picked up once Joy and Jack form a plan to get out of Room, and from then on the film envelops you in pathos for the main characters, especially Jack, who is witnessing the world outside for the first time ever.
One of the most striking scenes in the film is when Jack lies in the back of Old Nick’s pickup truck, and for the first time is seeing the skyline. He is absolutely mesmerized. He’s never seen much more than through a tiny sunroof. The Mighty Rio Grande by post-rock group This Will Destroy You plays in the background, an epic track that crescendos in the midst of Jack’s overwhelmedness. It is one of a few scenes that are quite profound and draw you to sympathise with those who may have been in like situations (which are, thankfully, very few), or even to look out for those who are aliens amongst us. Scenes like this also drew me to looking more closely at the world I often take for granted, the awe and beauty seen in the world around us that God has placed there.
The film also explores themes about family and what constitutes a family, especially questioning the biological nature of family. William H Macy turns up for about 5 minutes as Joy’s biological father, who is so ashamed of the son she has borne he won’t even look at Jack. In an intense interview with a journalist in another scene, Joy is asked about what she will say when Jack is asked about his, ‘you know, biological father.’ Joy states that she won’t tell him that it was Old Nick, because a real father is someone who sticks around. What’s interesting about this scene is that it is a reflection of her own trouble in her family. Joy has a biological father that doesn’t hang around. Her mother has re-married and Joy doesn’t have a comfortable relationship with her step-dad. Yet we find that it is the step-dad that gets alongside Jack. It is a family accustomed to difficulty.
Brie Larson definitely deserved the Academy Award for Best Actress in this role. Everyone in the film is good. The direction is great and so is the cinematography. It is a small movie that explores the nature of love, especially how we handle loving others as a result of sin and failure.
Room is a movie I will probably never revisit, but is definitely worth checking out.