[Rating: Solid Rock Fist Up]
Room is one of those small, independent films that only a handful of people will see, but everyone who does will have favorable things to say.
The latest from Frank director Lenny Abrahamson, Room is told from the perspective of Jack (played by Jacob Tremblay). Jack’s world is full of friends like Lamp and Plant.
His only human friend is his mother Ma (played by Brie Larson) and Jack’s life is normal and relatively happy one.
In reality, Jack and Ma are captives. Ma has been held in torment for 7 years, giving birth to Jack 2 years into her captivity. A fictionalization of events like the Ariel Castro kidnapping, Room‘s subject matter is bleak, but still manages to elevate itself above what could have been a by-the-numbers drama or Lifetime TV movie. It accomplishes this feat by doing a few things incredibly right.
First is telling the story from Jack’s perspective, as previously mentioned. Seeing the young boy’s view of the world further endears us to Ma, the woman who made it possible for him to experience a young life as close to normal as possible. Secondly, Room is not a harrowing escape story, at least not completely. It wisely explores the difficult world a captive faces upon returning to home – the media barrage, the lingering guilt and depression, and the fear the never fully leaves a person.
Anchoring this entire film is Larson, who gives the type of performance that deserves to be remembered, come awards season. She’s long been a go-to in comedic supporting roles on TV shows such as The League and Community and films such as 21 Jump Street, but here, she’s revelatory.
The subtlety and naturalism she injects into her character, combined with Emma Donoghue’s script keep Room grounded and helps it avoid melodrama by focusing on tiny victories and small moments between the characters. Abrahamson keeps his film subdued through a no-frills approach to scene construction and editing and manages to avoid the usual schmaltzy soundtrack or other pitfalls that could have easily claimed Room.
The result is a film that is uncompromising in its handling of some complex and difficult subject matter. Room is about a lot of things – depression, guilt, acclimating to your surroundings – chief among them, but its biggest accomplishment is that it manages to convey hope and optimism without becoming patronizing or underserving the narrative. It’s a balancing act, and a damn good one.