Review: Room

Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay in Room

Hearing about Room, even knowing that it garnered big awards and nominations, doesn’t prepare you for the exhausting impact of Room. It’s a stirring, emotional ride. Both Brie Larson as Ma and Jacob Tremblay as 5 year old Jack deliver inspired performances.

In the first half of the film, we are in the room with Ma and Jack. We see Ma’s strength in keeping Jack a happy, healthy child. When Old Nick (Sean Bridgers), Ma’s kidnapper and rapist, comes into the room at night, Ma hides Jack in a wardrobe.

But Jack  eventually becomes aware of Old Nick’s nocturnal visits. Old Nick brings Jack a birthday present. Old Nick touches Jack – not in a sexual way, but Ma has never let him touch Jack.

Ma and Jack make egg shell chains in "Room."
Ma and Jack make eggshell chains in “Room.”

When Old Nick takes note of Jack, Ma reaches her most desperate. She tells Jack the truth about what’s outside of room. They call their space “room” as if it were the whole world. For them, it is.

For the first 5 years or his life, Ma spun fairy tales for Jack about what was outside of room. Now, she trains him in what to do so that he can escape and bring help back. And he does, with the help of a very smart police officer played by Amanda Brugel.

Once Ma and Jack are outside of room, they have to learn how to live in the real world. I was very happy that part of the process are voice overs with Jack sharing his reactions to the big noisy world. It lightened the mood considerably to get his 5 year old perspective on what was happening. Jack’s innocence and sweetness are important to the film in several ways, particularly the ending.

Joan Allen, William H. Macy and Brie Larson in Room
Joan Allen, William H. Macy and Brie Larson in Room

Everything I’ve mentioned so far was in the previews, so I don’t think I’ve given you any spoilers with my summary thus far. There are some spoilers ahead, but minor ones.

It’s important that the rapes are witnessed from Jack’s perspective in the wardrobe. They amount to little more than creaking bedsprings and quiet grunts. It means nothing to Jack except that Old Nick is in room and he has to stay in the wardrobe.

Ma – her name is Joy – and Jack go to Joy’s mother’s house when they are free. Her mother is played by Joan Allen. Joy’s father is played by William H. Macy. He makes a brief appearance, but cannot even look at Jack. A child of rape cannot be a grandchild of his.

Joy’s mother has a new man, Leo (Tom McCamus). Joy’s mother and Leo are accepting of Jack. They befriend him and bring him out of his fear. They help provide him a normal life.

The entire second half of the film, the second act, if you will, is about how Joy and Jack come to terms with being out of the room. Joy was strong and hopeful in room. When free, she fell apart. After 7 years of nightly rapes, you have to wonder how she managed not to go insane in that room.  While Jack is moving on with the resilience of childhood, Joy is locked in a nightmare.

Emma Donoghue wrote both the novel and the screenplay. Lenny Abrahamson directed.

Room is a Irish/Canadian production, filmed in Toronto. I saw some familiar Canadian faces. Tom McCamus and Amanda Brugel you may recognize from Orphan Black. Wendy Crewson was also in the film, as a news anchor.

Overall, I give Room the highest possible ratings and recommendations. Well written, well directed, and superbly acted.

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