Recommended Viewing Situation:
In a bedsit with unpainted walls, aging appliances and a general air of greyness.
Running time: 118 minutes.
Format: Dolby Digital in RAW format.
Director: Lenny Abrahamson.
Writer: Emma Donoghue (screenplay), Emma Donoghue (novel).
Cinematography: Danny Cohen.
Awards: Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Brie Larson). 3 Other Oscar nominations and various other awards.
Twenty-four year old Jo, or ‘Ma’ (Brie Larson) is forced to raise her young son, Jack (Jacob Tremblay) in a reinforced shed measuring eleven feet by eleven feet. As Jack never left the shed after his birth, Ma is the only one of the two who has tasted life outside, so she brings previous experiences to ‘Room’ to create a world in the shed. Not having known differently, Jack is happy, believing Ma’s well-intentioned lies that it is only outer space beyond Room. Eventually, however, Ma starts planning a break-out and Jack’s anger and fear at the prospect of leaving Room (is it a coincidence the name rhymes with ‘womb’?) is testament to how wholly she has met his needs.
Based on a book by Emma Donaghue, Jack is loosely based on Felix Fritzl, the youngest child in the true story of the Fritzl family. With Donaghue’s help, who wrote the screenplay, director Lenny Abrahamson handles gritty themes sensitively. Implication rather than explicit references leaves much to the audience’s imagination, but the evidence exists to support one’s worst fears. Thoughtful choices and camera angles allow us to see through Jack’s eyes at times and these scenes are particularly moving. Tremblay plays Jack with surprising empathy, considering there would be little frame of reference for a character who has had such a bizarre upbringing. Larson presents Ma as a doting mum who is clearly wearing a facade for little Jack, but in time she reveals a weariness and desperation about her character that you would expect, given the nightmare of her situation.
A far-fetched story made all the more disturbing by its roots in truth, ‘Room’ is a worthwhile watch for perceptive acting and a fascinating look at the needs of humans, the legacy of experience and the achievement of happiness.