Production Companies: Filmnation Entertainment, Telefilm Canada, Film4, Irish Film Board, Ontario Media Development Corporation, Element Pictures, No Trace Camping, Duperele Films
Director: Lenny Abrahamson
Producers: Ed Guiney, David Cross
Scriptwriter: Emma Donoghue
Main Cast: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen, Sean Bridgers, William H Macy
Release Date: January 15th 2016 (UK/IRE)
Running Time: 118 minutes
Man, Room is a fantastic film. Don’t worry, I’m not talking about the Tommy Wiseau film The Room. Instead, I’m talking about the 2015 film Room which saw Brie Larson win Best Actress at the Oscars and was widely praised for being one of the best films of the year. Warning, there are some very dark themes running throughout the story. So, without further ado here is my review of the film.
The film opens in Akron, Ohio where Joy ‘Ma’ Newsome (Larson) and her son Jack (Tremblay) are living in a squalid shed they call Room. Why are they living there? Well, they are captives of a man they call ‘Old Nick’ (Bridgers) who kidnapped Joy seven years earlier and routinely rapes her. Awfully, ‘Old Nick’ is Jack’s father because of him raping Joy. While Joy tries to stay optimistic for her son, she suffers from depression and malnutrition. To combat this, she allows Jack to believe that only Room and its contents are real, and that everything else exists only on TV.
The truth about Room
Old Nick then tells Joy he lost his job and may not be able to afford her supplies. That night, Jack ventures out of the closet and sees Old Nick and his mum in bed. Horrified by the interaction between them, Joy tries to intervene. But this causes Old Nick to cut their heating and power off. After this, Joy finally tells Jack about the outside world. Jack reacts to this with shock and horror, but also curiosity. To get Jack out of Room, Joy has him fake a fever hoping Old Nick will take him to a hospital where he can alert the authorities. However, Old Nick decides to come back the next day with antibiotics.
To combat this, Joy decides to wrap Jack in a carpet to fake his death. This is in the hope that Old Nick will remove him from Room. Luckily, Old Nick falls for the ruse and puts Jack in the back of his truck. Although stunned by the outside world, Jack still manages to get out of the carpet and alert a passerby. Old Nick attempts to pursue him but fails and flees the scene. The police arrive, rescue Jack and Joy and take them both to the hospital.
Jack and Joy reintegrate into the world
Finally reunited with her family, Joy finds out her parents divorced and that her mum (Allen) has a new partner, Leo. She and Jack then return to her mum and Leo’s home. Tragically, Joy’s father (Macy) can’t accept Jack as his grandchild and leaves. Naturally, Jack and Joy have trouble adapting to the larger world. Jack only speaks to his mother and expresses his desire to go back to Room. Meanwhile, Joy struggles with depression and lashes out at her mother whilst worrying about his lack of interactions with ‘real’ things.
Joy speaks to the press
As a way of earning money, the family lawyer suggests Joy does a TV interview. However, this goes badly wrong when the interviewer keeps asking her why she kept Jack instead of sending him to a hospital. This would have allowed him to have a normal life. Overwhelmed by everything, Joy attempts suicide. Luckily, Jack finds her in the bathroom and she is taken to hospital.
Life after Room
Despite missing his mother, Jack begins to settle into his new life. He bonds with his new family, meets Leo’s dog, Seamus, and meets a boy his age. In a wonderful bit of storytelling, Jack has his grandmother cut his long hair to send it to his mother in hospital to give her the strength she needs to recover. Joy then returns home and apologizes for the suicide attempt, thanking Jack for saving again. After this, Joy and Jack start to embrace life and do many activities they enjoy. At Jack’s request, they visit Room one last time with a police escort. However, Jack is confused as he feels it has shrunk and it is a different place with the door open. Jack and Joy say their goodbyes to Room and leave.
Brie Larson’s Performance in Room
To begin my analysis of Room, I’m going to focus on Brie Larson’s performance as Joy Newsome. Firstly, it’s a terrific performance with Larson playing the role of captive damsel/mother figure superbly. Also the dedication behind the performance can not be understated here. What did she do? Well, she researched trauma and nutrition in order to better play the role of Joy. This was on top of avoiding sunlight and isolating away from people to prepare for the role. Damn, she definitely earned that Oscar. Her performance is just so powerful often because of her chemistry with Jacob Tremblay really making you invested in their lives in Room. All this makes Joy a very sympathetic character only enhanced when she and Jack finally escape from Room. Damn, this film pulls your heartstrings so much.
Cinematography in Room
For the next part of my analysis of Room, I’m going to discuss the cinematography and its effect on the audience. Obviously, because of the small nature of the constructed set there are a lot of closeups throughout the film. So, what is the effect of these closeups? Well, it adds to the claustrophobic feel of the film. It also helps to immerse the audience in Room, by making them feel like they are trapped in there with Joy and Jack as well. However, an alternative interpretation of the cinematography is it makes the audience into Jack and Joy’s voyeurs.
Similar to Hitchcock films, by using a lot of close ups in such a confined space, it makes the audience into voyeurs through the camera being their access point into the film and makes the audience question their role within the narrative. Even more proof for this is that the audience are looking in whilst all Jack and Joy can do is look out through the skylight in hope. Or, am I just over analyzing a minor part of a great film?
Joy and Jack transition to the outside world
To conclude my analysis of Room, I’m going to discuss how Joy and Jack’s transition back into society is handled in the film and how it affects the audience. Obviously, this is a very difficult process to convey on film but damn Room pulls it off. By building it up really slowly across the first act, the audience becomes invested very quickly in Joy and Jack’s escape plan. So, when it looks like Old Nick will catch Jack and thwart the escape plan the audience can be worried about if the plan will work. In the end, the plan works and Joy’s joy (Nice) at seeing her son outside of Room and it leads the audience to ask how well Joy and Jack will adapt to the world outside of Room?
As I mentioned above in the synopsis, Joy sees how far life has moved on away from her and her depression only continues to torment her. Again, Room does a brilliant job at aligning with Joy and her struggles so that when she finally beats away negative thoughts that surrounded her after Room the audience feel the same happiness as her.
To conclude, Room is a very well made, excellently acted drama with some wonderful performances and a great story about escape and freedom running under its dark subject matter. A heartfelt and moving film overall.
Overall Rating: 8.5/10
Target Audience: 15+
Content Warning: Moderate frightening and intense scenes, Moderate Profanity, Mild violence and gore