Five-year-old Jack (Jacob Tremblay) has always lived in a small, windowless home called “Room” with Ma (Brie Larson). When Jack goes to sleep at night, Ma is visited by Old Nick (Sean Bridgers), who brings them food and supplies. One day, Ma tells Jack that she was kidnapped and has been imprisoned for seven years in Room. Jack fights with Ma at first, unable to believe there’s anything beyond Room. But he eventually accepts the truth and helps Ma escape.
Room is the film adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s 2010 novel of the same name. Since I haven’t read the novel, I can’t speak to the book-to-film translation. However, I can tell you that Donoghue followed the lead of other authors who’ve had their books turned into movies (like Gone Girl‘s Gillian Flynn). She came on as screenwriter to adapt her own material into the film’s screenplay. So I’m assuming the film follows the book pretty closely since Donoghue was involved.
Room is one of those movies that’s both enlightening and hard to watch. It’s makes you realize how lucky you are to experience the world every day (which we often take for granted). But it also makes you have deep, dark conversations with yourself about what you’d do if you were in the characters’ situation (and since that situation involves kidnapping, imprisonment, and raising a child born of rape, it’s not exactly a conversation you want to have). To be honest, it’s a movie I would’ve much rather watched at home than in a theater.
Still, it’s a beautiful film. In “Room”—where at least half of the movie takes place—we see the love Jack has for the closed-off world he was born into, as well as the pain and loneliness it causes Ma, who knows of the outside world beyond her prison. Outside of “Room”—where the second half of the movie takes place—we see Jack’s wonder at discovering the world, as well as the heartbreak and depression Ma experiences after reentering society. It’s the side-by-side differences in how Jack and Ma view Room and the outside world that make this movie’s story and characters so interesting.
Speaking of characters, this movie was all about the acting. Jacob Tremblay, who plays Jack, was adorable as the wide-eyed young boy who just wants to be with his mother, regardless of whether they’re trapped in a shed or out experiencing the world. Tremblay nabbed a Supporting Actor nomination from the Screen Actors Guild (though he’s more of a lead, if you ask me). He’s good, but his performance doesn’t resonate with critics as much as Brie Larson’s (who received nominations from both SAG and the Golden Globes this year).
Larson’s performance is getting more recognition than Tremblay’s because she does the heavy lifting. She has to capture all of Ma’s silent trauma with little more than her facial expressions, but boy does she do it masterfully. You can understand what Ma has been through by the way Larson carries herself in the role. The strength of a mother who’d do anything for her son; the weakness of a victim whose body was violated time and time again by her captor; the sadness of a young girl whose life was stolen from her; and the resilience of a woman who wants to move forward. Because Larson captures all of that in her onscreen moments, you can see why she’s a threat to other actresses in the Best Actress category this year.
The only thing I didn’t like about this movie was its agonizingly slow pace. I do think slowing down everything was a conscious decision made by director Lenny Abrahamson and Donoghue. Why? Well, a slower pace does give the story and characters more space to grow and breathe (like a book). And it does make the scenes in “Room” feel like we’ve been there for eternity (to parallel the way Ma feels about being there). Don’t get me wrong—it’s good for storytelling. But 118 minutes of slow-building emotional turmoil wears on you.
Overall, Room is an emotionally-dense view into the world of a young mother whose life was stolen from her and a young boy who’s never experienced the world outside of the captivity he was born into. It’s a film that relies quite a deal on the performances of its actors, Jacob Tremblay and Brie Larson, the latter being a serious contender for this year’s Best Actress awards race. But while it’s got solid acting, the traumatic story and slow-moving pace can start to weigh on you. In other words, it’s not a movie to see on a whim.
Please note that this film could have triggers for any survivors of sexual assault, rape, kidnapping, or imprisonment.