In association with the Grosvenor
A story about a 24 year old woman and her child living in a box would be expected to be a tale of sadness and heartbreak, something more akin to Markus Schleinzer’s 2011 feature Michael, which is based on the same abduction cases in Austria that screenwriter Emma Donoghue’s original novel Room is based upon, but is far grittier and darker. Instead, Lenny Abrahamson’s Room is a heart-warming and beautiful portrayal of love, strength and wonder.
Through the eyes of 5 year old Jack, played to perfection by Jacob Tremblay, the audience experiences life inside ‘room’ and is introduced to its inhabitants – sink, chair one, chair two, egg-snake – and feels the intense and enduring love that Jack and Ma, Golden Globe winner and Oscar front runner Brie Larson, share together. Jack’s innocence and lack of knowledge of any outside world allows him to live a relatively normal existence, unburdened by any memories of a former life in the real world. Ma is not so lucky.
We watch as she struggles to accept her surroundings, often throwing cursory glances at the skylight or the electronically locked door, and becomes increasingly frustrated at not being able to talk to her son about what she has kept hidden from him for his own peace of mind, that there is an entire world beyond ‘room’.
Eventually she decides to tell him everything, so that he can help her to trick their captor ‘Old Nick’ and allow them to escape. But after seven years of incarceration, Ma learns that life in the real world is not as easy as she wants it to be. Jack, meanwhile, has to adapt to a world the size and scale of which he cannot begin to understand.
The music by Stephen Rennicks drives home whatever feelings Abrahamson wishes to convey in a moment, whether it be Ma’s fear of Old Nick or Jack’s moment of wonder as he gets his first look at the outside world, though it can verge on emotionally manipulative in its grandeur and volume.
A terrific set of supporting performances from Joan Allen, William H. Macy and Tom McCamus as those who greet Ma and Jack upon their release help to tie the human elements together, as we see how the symbiotic and closed off relationship between the two main characters functions when others are introduced.
Powerfully life affirming, Room is not what you’d expect – and thank goodness.