Editor’s Notes: Room will be released on its respective home video format on March 1st.
Room (Lionsgate) is a movie that combines the effects of a terrible crime with a tale of motherly protectiveness and hope. When she was 15 years old, Ma (Brie Larson) was kidnapped, raped, and imprisoned in a ten-foot by ten-foot shed. Now, ten years later, she is still a captive but with her son Jack (Jacob Tremblay), the five-year-old product of her rape. Jack has never seen the outside, with the exception of a skylight. His entire world is the shed, and his mother has convinced him that this is the entire world. Images on television of the real world, she tells him, are made up
Their captor, known only as Old Nick (Sean Bridgers), has outfitted the shed with a bathroom, water and electricity, the television, and some furniture. He visits to bring provisions and take advantage of Ma but is extremely careful never to allow either Ma or Jack near the door.
Despite the grim premise, director Lenny Abrahamson establishes a fairy tale-like tone in the early scenes. Ma has raised Jack under bizarre circumstances and now that he is old enough to ask questions, Ma realizes that the fantasy she has created for him will soon evaporate.
Though secondary characters figure significantly into this drama, it depends largely on the performances of Larson and young Mr. Tremblay. As mother and son, the actors convey a solid bond essential for the film’s success. We wonder at first how a woman and child could exist for so long as isolated prisoners of a dangerous man, but soon accept the premise because of the effectiveness of the performances.
Not to take anything away from Ms. Larson, but a lot of the acting heavy lifting falls to the young Mr. Tremblay, who is not only adorable, but also amazingly expressive. Nine years old at the time of filming, he delivers a thoroughly convincing portrayal of a five-year-old who undertakes a life-threatening mission and is abruptly plucked from his circumscribed life and deposited in the real world. Everything is foreign to Jack and he must confront a barrage of new experiences in a wider, often frightening universe.
Ma, terrified that her son may now fall prey to Old Nick, tries to devise an escape despite the dangers and against the odds. Though her choices are questionable and their success unlikely, we forgive this script lapse because Ms. Larson’s performance grabs us and we root for the plan, however flawed and fraught with obstacles, to succeed.
The term “original” is overused these days. With the huge number of movies released each year, it’s tough to be entirely original. Room, in contrast, is unlike any picture I’ve seen. Is it a crime film? Not really. A drama? Yes, but far more. It presents us with an extraordinary situation and then shows how a desperate mother attempts to protect her child, mentally and physically, when the future seems bleak and hopeless. There is a docudrama feel to much of the film.
Rated R, Room is a powerful film that depends on an engrossing screenplay and superb performances to draw us in. Though troubling, it is ultimately an uplifting movie about human resilience in the face of overwhelming obstacles.