Room (2015)

Room (2015)
  • Time: 118 min
  • Genre: Drama
  • Director: Lenny Abrahamson
  • Cast: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen, Sean Bridgers


Room tells the extraordinary story of Jack, a spirited 5-year-old who is looked after by his loving and devoted mother. Like any good mother, Ma dedicates herself to keeping Jack happy and safe, nurturing him with warmth and love and doing typical things like playing games and telling stories. Their life, however, is anything but typical–they are trapped–confined to a windowless, 10-by-10-foot space that Ma has euphemistically named Room. Ma has created a whole universe for Jack within Room, and she will stop at nothing to ensure that, even in this treacherous environment, Jack is able to live a complete and fulfilling life. But as Jack’s curiosity about their situation grows, and Ma’s resilience reaches its breaking point, they enact a risky plan to escape, ultimately bringing them face-to-face with what may turn out to be the scariest thing yet: the real world.


  • Jack is five years old and Room is the only home he has ever known. Room is where he and his Ma live for every second of every minute of every day. Inside Room, objects like Table and Sink are to be greeted like best friends. Outside Room is Space where aliens can’t hear them even though he and Ma yell really really loudly.

    What Jack (a strikingly excellent Jacob Tremblay) doesn’t know, and what the audience comes to realise, is that Room is a sealed and soundproofed garden shed in which Ma (Brie Larson) has been held captive for seven years. Her captor, Old Nick (Sean Bridgers), arrives every night bearing food and supplies, makes the bed creak while he does something with Ma, and then leaves. Jack never sees all of Old Nick’s face, only what he can glimpse through the slats of the closet he has to stay in when Old Nick is in Room. So when Old Nick is still in Room, asleep and snoring, late one night, Jack can’t help but tiptoe in for a closer look.

    The burst of violence that results spurs Ma to hatch a desperate escape plan. She knows they can’t live like this forever and, with Old Nick revealing that he’s been unemployed for the past six months, she fears that things may be worse that they already are. But first she has to convince Jack that there is a real world out there, that the people, places and animals he sees on television do exist, that they are live and not fantasy. Jack thinks she’s playing a trick and when she tries to explain that she’s only saying this now because he’s old enough to understand, he sulks, “I want to be four again.” He doesn’t know why she’s telling him that Old Nick stole her (“I want a different story,” he shouts but she persists, “This is the story you get.”) and the rising frustration in her voice is making him scared.

    His fear and her anxiety provide the momentum to the film’s most intense sequence as he and his Ma are separated and then reunited and rescued. The scene is undeniably, emotionally powerful and it’s to director Lenny Abrahamson’s credit that he maintains a tight grip on the narrative without losing sense of Jack’s perspective, which dominates the film. Where Room sets itself apart from most survival stories is its exploration of the aftermath of having lived through something so unimaginable. Opening the door may mean freedom, but it also means leaving what one has known as home.

    It may be odd to call a prison a home, but that is what Room is to Jack. It’s a strange and scary place, this new world, with so many people and noises and things vying for his attention that it makes him feel “spread thin all over the place, like butter.” Cinematographer Danny Cohen expertly conveys how such a claustrophobic room can, in Jack’s words, go in all directions; meanwhile, the outside world may be larger but it feels emptier, more isolated and sometimes more frightening.

    Ma’s adjustment is as difficult. She should be happy, but she is angry that her mother and father (an exemplary Joan Allen and William H. Macy) have divorced in her absence and that her mother is now living with a new man (Tom McCamus). Life went on without her, and she wonders if she has the wherewithal to catch up and move forward. Larson balances tenderness and tough love in her portrayal. One is never in doubt of her fierce maternal love, but one can also empathise with her impatience at having to be his everything. One forgets that is only 24, still a child, who didn’t have the same experiences as her peers.

    Emma O’Donoghue has, for the most part, done a fine job in adapting her own critically-acclaimed novel. It’s wise to compress the mundanities of their life as giving visual expression to those extremely detailed passages would have tried the viewers’ patience. However, the diluted focus on Jack’s increasing worry about his mother’s independence undercuts the film’s second half. Their readjustment is not only about learning to live in the world, but learning how to live without depending so much on one another. Still, for all its hiccups in both the script and a sometimes overly sentimental score, Room is a wrenching but rewarding film that further confirms Larson’s immense talent.

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  • The title is “Room” not “The Room.” The more general term makes the film about the space in our lives and in our selves and our need to escape whatever walls or restrictions that others — or we ourselves — have imposed on us. So our experience really is reflected in this freakish story. The film is about the vast room we have at our disposal not the small room to which we might accept restriction.
    Unlike most of us, this boy’s first five years are spent in a small enclosed shed with no other outside experience but a usually blank skylight sky and the confusion of realities on the wavering TV. No cable there, no proper connection. His Ma has nurtured his delusion that there is no real world out there, concealing their imprisonment until he is old enough to handle it — i.e., to escape. When they do get out she’s troubled by his slowness to make a “connection” to anything, but he does, first (of course) to Lego, which enables him to start building his own world, then to a neighbour pal.
    Unlike most of us, Ma, nee the lost Joy, had her high school joy and promise smashed by seven years of sexual enslavement. But as she was the anchor on her school relay team she’s the anchor in her Jack’s life. And he becomes her reason to survive. Their (non-umbilical) cord isn’t broken until well into their liberation. Only then does she stop breast-feeding him.
    The film ends with Jack and Ma going back to Room to say goodbye. Of course the past is not the same: the evidence has been removed but mainly, it’s not Room any more with the door removed. Its essence was restriction not space. The two leave restriction behind to embrace the expanse of freedom.
    But psychological restriction remains. Ma’s suicide attempt and the TV interviewer’s insensitive probing show her still scarred. Jack seems stable when he pulls out of his Ma’s embrace to go play with his new/first friend Aaron. This story is a bleak parody of Eden as a parable of our origin. Their captor “Old Nick” evokes Satan.
    Joy’s two “families” curiously contrast. Her relationship with her captor is a bleak parody of marriage. Jobless, Old Nick is a loser who asserts his false authority by enslaving and abusing Joy. Imprisoning Joy gives him a power and potency he lacks in real life. Enough families, alas, live like that without the literal abduction.
    Joy’s one firm rule is to insist Old Nick will never touch or even see little Jack. She enforces that principle to the point of hysteria. She will save Jack from her contamination by Old Nick, later even denying his paternity. Once reunited, Joy’s father can’t bring himself even to look at Jack. For him, the boy embodies his daughter’s and therefore his shame. The boy’s father’s imposed restriction parallels the grandfather’s self-imposed containment.
    In contrast, Joy’s mother Nancy’s new man embraces him in a sensitive, respectful manner. Jack opens up to him: “I had a dog once but he wasn’t real.” Luckily, Leo brings him a real dog, Shamus, a cozier creature than the big black lab who’s Jack’s first contact in the outside world.
    As Nancy admits, Joy’s was not the only life destroyed by her abduction. Obviously the parents’ marriage was another casualty. The father moved away and remains remote. But Nancy immediately accepts Jack. Her first words to him are thanks for saving “our little girl.” Jack saves her again by sending her his “strong” in the hair he lets Nancy cut off and bring her. In a touching irony, Joy’s horrific enslavement has not diminished her adolescent tensions with her mother. Bonding is like that, as restricting and yet as liberating as … the room through which we live.

  • Imagine living in a room where the world was hidden from you. Where the only life you knew was the one inside this room. Now imagine escaping this room and witnessing the world in all its glory, jostling for your attention, all at once.

    Room is a visually striking depiction of confinement. Director Lenny Abrahamson does an exemplary job directing in such a small confined space. There’s not a lot of space inside the room to film, yet ever scene looks marvelous and keeps you craving more. The writing is elaborate, showing the confinement and little by little spoon feeding you more and more information.

    As the story unfolds we realize this mother and child are not in the luxury of their home, but rather trapped inside a shed by a kidnapper. The shed has all the amenities they need to survive such as lighting, water, and food. Although they are free to roam around this room, they have no freedoms. They are prisoners inside a prison, disguised as a living room. The child grows up ignorant of reality. He doesn’t know about the world around him. He only knows about the room, what his mother has taught him, and what he watches on TV. As the child ages, the mother realizes that she can’t keep living under the same circumstances and must find a way to escape, whatever the means.

    The performance by Brie Larson is hauntingly enchanting. She delivers a riveting performance that truly brings out the claustrophobic aspect of the film, allowing the audiences to fully understand just how tragic and daunting it is to be confined to one space without the freedom to leave. Although she does various activities to keep herself and her son busy, we can see just by her actions and her tone how miserable she really is. It’s not until the child is 5 that she begins to feed him the truth. Almost like ripping off a band-aid in one go, she drowns him in a tidal wave of information about the world outside and what lead to their circumstances.

    The child, played by Jacob Tremblay, also delivers an extraordinary performance. He is the epitome of how a child would behave growing up under those circumstances. He can get very annoying, very quick. Constantly yelling at his mother, insubordinate of her authority. His performance reminds of the child, Noah Wiseman, from an incredible psychological horror film, The Babadook. They both torment their mother with their insubordination. Although it might get annoying for the audience, it works for the film. The constant torment by the child excels the mother’s desire to escape.

    Room is one of the best films I’ve seen all year because it’s a different kind of film. It’s a life-affirming cinematic masterpiece that makes you appreciate all the freedoms we have in life. The truly horrifying aspect about this film is that it’s based off a reality. Numerous victims are kidnapped every year and this film elaborately showcases the horror of it all. This great blend of unique directing, a well written story, and superb casting is what truly sets Room apart from other films.

  • (Rating: ☆☆☆☆ out of 4)

    This film is highly recommended.

    In brief: Two wonderful performances make the film even more impressive.

    GRADE: A-

    Depending on your point of view, the world can be big and overwhelming or small and intimate. For the characters in Lenny Abrahamson’s riveting film, Room, their personal experience is the sum total of a 11’ x 11’ area.

    Ma and Jack have been held captive for many years. Although Ma knows the real-life details of their lives, Jack has been spared that harsh reality. Their day-to-day survival activities include storytelling time, games, and gazing out at the piece of sky through the shed’s skylight. This claustrophobic house is Jack’s world.

    For most of Room, we are caught in the tiny confines of their room and the film makes this space an important character in itself. The director creates a film of poetic melancholia with his subtle use of Jack’s voice-over narration interpreting his life and sharing a child’s viewpoint about the world as he sees it. Abrahamson’s numerous close-ups of the everyday objects surrounding them repeatedly shows their desperation in an isolated corner of the world. As they cling to some shred of hope and sanity, the psychological battle between captor and prisoners rages on. Jack lives in a world of naiveté and innocence. Ma tries to protect her son while still having the inner strength to carry on and shield him the awful truth. The story may sound glum and depressing, but it isn’t.

    It is the love story between mother and child that resonates and makes this film so special. The screenplay by Emma Donoghue, based on her own novel, is concise and literate. She wisely allows the visuals to tell the narrative and focuses instead on the real-life dialog between the two main characters to establish their bond and hardships.

    Foremost are the magnificent performances of Brie Larson and young Jacob Tremblay. Their chemistry together is remarkable. Ms. Larson delivers a strong and impassioned performance. Her role runs a range of emotions and the actress uses the quieter moments to convey the angst and anger that manifests within this courageous woman. Mr. Tremblay is in full control too as he fully registers the heart-breaking moments so naturally. He inhabits his part with such confidence and authority, delineating his character’s moodiness and sense of wonder with such skill. Most adult actors should envy the intrinsic talent of this 6-year old. (That this young actor was somehow excluded for an Academy Award is enough evidence to question the voting process of the Academy.) Strong work is given by Joan Allen, William H. Macy, and Sean Bridgers in supporting roles as well.

    The film does have some issues with time passages that remain murky and more clarity is still needed with some of the minor characters who seem more like plot devices than real characters. But those details are minor complaints. Room is excellent, a film that emotionally captivates its audience with its gripping story, sensitive direction, and top-notch performances.

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  • This movie is fiction. It’s based on a novel written by Emma Donoghue who also wrote the screenplay. It is to be assumed that Donoghue kept pretty much what was in the book and what is on screen works. There are no overly dramatic scenes even with the dramatic scenes that are there. It pulls emotions out but not simply for the sake of the emotions because Donoghue has done a great job keeping the story real and believable.
    A lot of credit has to go to director Lenny Abrahamson. Often directors don’t know how to handle a kid and treat him/her as an adult. Other directors treat kids as if they were intellectually challenged individuals rather than remembering kids can think. Abrahamson has not left a directorial mark on this boy’s performance but he has managed to pull a great performance out of the boy.
    The boy in question, Jacob Tremblay who plays Jack, is cute without being obnoxious about it. He has to have some talent or he wouldn’t be able to turn in a performance that’s this good. All I ever saw in this film is a kid. The performance is natural and smooth and utterly believable. Brie Larson plays his mother and this character never seems able to settle. Whereas the boy knows nothing except the room, his mother knows about it all and Larson’s character is constantly balancing between what is and what isn’t while she looks at what can’t be and what should be.
    Joan Allen plays Jack’s grandmother with a nice performance where she has to balance between her daughter’s guilt and new grandson’s confusion. William H. Macy plays the grandfather and I don’t think anyone else could have done one particular scene, the last time we see this character in the movie, better or more subtly than Macy. Great acting never shows but it’s there. Tom McCamus plays grandma’s new husband and does a good job. It is this ensemble that keeps this movie from being maudlin.
    I give Room 4 skylights out of 4. It is certainly worthy of nominations now we have to see if it can win.

  • There has perhaps never been a more obvious metaphor in cinema for the loss of childhood innocence and the sudden arrival of the big, scary, grown-up world out there, but Irish director Lenny Abrahamson, who helmed 2014’s magnificent Frank, translates Emma Donoghue’s internal monologue-heavy novel of the same name with tenderness and care, successfully avoiding sensationalising the horror at its disturbing core. Room is one of the year’s most complex and awe-inspiring films.

    Five year-old Jack (Jacob Tremblay) has never left the place he knows as Room. To him, the tiny shed he has lived his entire life is the whole world, with the pictures on the television screen beamed in from some distant galaxy. He and his devoted mother Joy (Brie Larson) spend every day in a set routine, with Joy using every waking moment to tend to her son and shield him from the terrible situation they’re actually in. We come to learn that Joy has been locked in Room for seven years, taken a long time ago by a man she only knows as Old Nick (Deadwood’s Sean Bridgers), who routinely re-ups their supplies and rapes Joy while Jack peeks through the cracks of his wardrobe.

    Larson won an Oscar for her performance here and rightly so. The relationship between Joy and Jack is more than simple mother-and-son, as it comes quickly to light that the boy is the only thing keeping her alive. Still, she struggles with his energy and growing curiosity of things he cannot comprehend, until one day she decides to tell him the truth and plans their escape. Her depression is becoming overwhelming, to the point where she may commit suicide, and then what then for her son? If you’re unaware of the plot then don’t read any further, for it is the moment Jack finally breaks free, followed shortly after by his mother, when the film moves into different territory altogether – Jack coping with this mind-blowing revelation. There now exists things he has never seen before, such as other people, other places, and the sky.

    Tremblay is equally as good as Jack with arguably a more complex character. It’s appalling that his name was missing from the Academy’s line-up, as this is the finest male performance of the year (as lovely as it was to see Leonardo DiCaprio receive his long-overdue award). His experience of this new, massive planet is amplified by some intelligent camerawork from cinematographer Danny Cohen, who films in sparse wide-shots to heighten the scale, and employs intense close-ups during the early scenes in Room to almost offend your sense of space. Yet its the two leads and their natural chemistry that really assist Room in delivering its intended emotional wallop. Whenever they’re apart, you feel the tear and their need for each other. This is powerful, intelligent film-making, with a real hint of the greatness that could come from Abrahamson in the future.

    Rating: 4/5

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