Release: Friday, October 16, 2015 (limited)
Written by: Emma Donoghue
Directed by: Lenny Abrahamson
How does one begin to describe a film like Room? Do I write a poem? Do I send Lenny Abrahamson a letter saying ‘thanks?’ Do I wax lyrical about the emotional highs and lows only a film about a mother and son being isolated in a garden shed for years can provide?
Nah, not really. I’m not feeling any of that. What I do feel is that I’ve had the life force sucked out of me after watching this, the big screen adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s best-selling novel. If this is meant to be uplifting, it’s uplifting in the way One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was uplifting.
What I see in Room is an indictment of humanity; we are an unapologetically ugly species. I see relentless psychological torment, a young woman’s life pointlessly sent off the rails after she helped a man “and his dog” one fateful night. I see suffering not just in the moment but in the aftermath of a highly improbable escape from confinement.
Lenny Abrahamson devotes roughly half the running time inside a shed in the backyard of some nondescript home in suburban USA. This is where we first meet the characters, going about their day, interacting with each other and finding creative ways to pass the time. Jack (Jacob Tremblay) says hello to all of the inanimate objects he’s surrounded by upon awakening. Repressed anger be damned, ‘Ma’ (a never better Brie Larson) is going to make sure her son celebrates his fifth birthday properly.
Life is a certain way for these people. It doesn’t take much time or effort to realize it’s neither healthy nor normal. But after some psychological ingenuity on the part of Ma, life shall prove to be even more difficult on the outside. Indeed, there will be a transition, not just for the characters but for how we are able to invest in the performances. Given the novelist is also the screenwriter here, is it safe to assume the book is just as dull and arduous in the second half?
‘Room,’ as Jack calls it, is compelling in a morbid kind of way. Maybe all I need to say about this is Sean Bridgers. Given so little to do, the man effects a thoroughly despicable human being, an archetypal abuser who probably blames the economy for his being such a shit-bag. However he’s in the frame so infrequently he can’t take all the credit. In fact he’s pretty incidental compared to the weight of Larson and Tremblay’s performances.
If you’ve heard the word already, it is true: these are some breathtaking performances. Were it not for the depth of Larson’s commitment to pretending to be Tremblay’s mother, Room would be unwatchable. It is such a thoroughly depressing film, tracing the trajectory of that commitment as the pair are faced with an entirely new set of challenges. The real world is both exciting and maddening. Jack is the ray of sunshine in an otherwise dark room. At nine years old, the Canadian youngster is a revelation.
He informs the film’s deeply introspective narrative, professing his interpretation of the world around him. His descriptions give the film a jolt of inspiration; it’s better when Tremblay talks to us. When he’s not we’re like the psychologist who finds their first major breakthrough with a patient who’s generally been unwilling to talk about a past trauma. Those breakthroughs happen all too infrequently though, and we’re left with the difficult task of telling the patient that everything is going to be okay. We promise.
Recommendation: Room proves an acting showcase for its young stars. And honestly, it is a credit to those efforts that I have reacted, perhaps to a great many’s surprise, somewhat unfavorably. That a film inspires an emotional reaction at all is one of the highest praises you can give a film. While recognizing Room‘s brilliance, it’s still ultimately not something I’d ever care to sit through again.
Running Time: 118 mins.
Quoted: “There’s so much of ‘place’ in the world. There’s less time because the time has to be spread extra thin over all the places, like butter. So all the persons say ‘Hurry up! Let’s get going! Pick up the pace! Finish up now!’ Ma was in a hurry to go ‘boing’ up to Heaven, but she forgot me. Dumbo Ma! So the aliens threw her back down. CRASH! And broke her.”
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Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com
I really want to see this. The book was fantastic.
After sitting through the movie I’m not sure if I could stand reading the book. The material is really good but I suppose I’m not in the frame of mind these days to get into something quite so heavy and depressing. I need my uplifting stories, dammit!! 😉
I can well imagine, Tom. x o x
My post today might give you a giggle. 🙂
I’m just saw this, and… yeah, wow. Heavy, I think I may have shed a tear or two. Really well written mate, you do the film justice 🙂
Thanks! Room is really heavy but i appreciated it as a genuine work of emotion and appreciation for storytelling. I thought one half was better than the other but I think I may be in the minority on that. All around a good one though that’s for sure
What a film. Poetry is a lovely word to describe it. Room catches you off guard in its sheer honesty; I thought the kid might irritate me at first, but I warmed to him after a little while and the on screen relationship with Brie Larson is incredible.
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Yeah mark there’s absolutely no denying the chemistry between these two. it was as if tremblay were Larson’s real-life kid or something! Such a great job acting from that young Canuck, and at 9 years old doing material like this is kind of mind-blowing!
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I also felt like I’d had the life sucked out of me by the end; such an emotionally heavy film, and it seems like a lot of viewers feel the same way (well, those who are vocal about the experience, anyway). Personally I didn’t find the second half dull or arduous at all…I thought the fallout of the whole experience was handled very well, especially with the three other older characters involved, who understandably have no idea how to act or what to say/do. That all said I doubt I’ll re-watch it any time soon either…just a heavy downer.
Yeah it’s really heavy, right?? It’s like that, in a “good” way I guess because, as per the review, any film that can get me to react at all, and even if its negatively, that means the movie did its job, so . . . Yeah.
Room is definitely an example of an experience but I just am not sure how much I felt rewarded by it in the end.
Great work Tom. Hopefully gonna see this at some point in the next week, been looking forward to it for a while — the performances sound wonderful.
Thanks Adam! The performances define the picture. For me I didn’t much care for the film as much after a certain point but i fully acknowledge i am in the pretty overwhelming MINORITY there! 😉 It’s a good film for sure, and I had to give it credit. I just got pretty depressed watching it. haha
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I think I may have one more week to catch this, not counting the day right before the Oscars where tons of theaters play a showing of the nominees.
Been putting this off for too long, and work this past week has left me with no time. Hopefully, I’ll get around to it this upcoming week. I know I’ll like it, but like you, probably won’t care to watch again. Great stuff Tom.
Much appreciated dude. Sorry for a delayed response.
This film’s well worth checking out. Performances are off-the-charts. It’s just not the funnest movie experience I’ve had in a while . . . . . . .
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