“When I was four, I didn’t even know about the world, and now me and ma are going to live in it forever and ever until we’re dead. This is a street in a city in a country called America, and earth. That’s a blue and green planet, always spinning, so I don’t know why we don’t fall off. Then, there’s outer space. And nobody knows where’s heaven. Ma and I have decided that because we don’t know what we like, we get to try everything. There are so many things out here. And sometimes, it’s scary, but that’s okay, because it’s still just you and me.”
‘Room’, directed by Lenny Abrahamson in 2015, is a Canadian and Irish movie that tells the story of Jack, a five year old boy played by Jacob Tremblay, who has been raised in a shed with his mother Joy. Joy, played by Brie Larson, was kidnapped seven years previously by a man they call ‘Old Nick’ and had been regularly raped by him. When Old Nick begins to withhold supplies, Joy comes up with a plan for escape, which ultimately succeeds and leads to the second half of the film following the mother’s readjustment to society, and her son discovering a world he never knew existed. Despite the dark subject matter and potential for sensationalism, ‘Room’ is a surprisingly subtle and life-affirming film. The point of the first half set entirely within an enclosed space, is the Jack is presented as a relatively content child, and his relationship with Joy is recognisably ‘normal’. After the escape, it is Jack who, after an initial period of adjustment, manages to adapt, whilst his mother understandably falls to pieces. It’s a film about the power of motherhood, reflected in the strength of Joy, and about the absence of men. Joy’s father, played by William H Macy, has divorced her mother at some point over the years, and finds it impossible to come to terms with his new grandson, and so vanishes for the rest of the film. Similarly, possibly in parallel to this, Old Nick, seen only fleetingly, disappears from the film after the escape. The film is intentionally presented from the innocent, but honest point-of-view of Jack, and is successful, partially because of the natural strength of Tremblay’s performance.
Would I recommend it? Yes – it’s a moving and engaging film that plays on your expectations. It’s uplifting in a remarkable and unexpected way.