Reviews - Room
Reviewed By Chris Coombes
Room is a 2015 Canadian-Irish film directed by Lenny Abrahamson and written by Emma Donoghue, based on her novel of the same name. Brie Larson won an Oscar for her portrayal of a young woman held captive for seven years in an enclosed, claustrophobic space (a shed in the garden of her abuser) with her 5-year-old son played by Jacob Tremblay who gave a truly astonishing performance for one so young (he was 9 years old when the film was made). Mother and son (Jack) manage to gain their freedom, and Jack experiences the outside world for the first time.
The story unfolds for us largely through the experience and the narration of Jack who has to grapple with learning to understand what is real and what isn’t. He is entirely dependent on his mother and probably not really able to see himself as separate from her until the day he follows her desperate instructions that enable him to the leave the shed and make a run for it (on behalf of both of them). The escape is somewhat implausible, but somehow this doesn't detract at all as it hardly matters. The tension builds almost unbearably, and we are entirely caught up in the mother's need to set her son free coupled with the horror of losing him. She has built a habitable nest for him as best she can in dreadful circumstances and her over-riding instinct throughout their captivity, whilst battling her own depression and fear, has been to protect and nurture him. But there comes the point where she has to push him out to save them both – and it works – we are on the edge of our seats, willing them to succeed.
The second half of the film deals with the adjustments that Jack and his mum and their wider family have to make when they are back in the real world; at times it seems that they have swapped one prison for another; one surreal world for another. Jack is stronger than his mum and manages to save her for a second time when she attempts suicide. He has learned the skill of protection from her, and he has learned from an expert.
The central themes of the story - the bond between mother and child, appeasement and collaboration in order to survive and dealing with mind numbing anger are handled sensitively in this admirably constrained film. It is an intriguing story well told.
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