When your entire world is limited to a 10×10 box with no phone and no internet, it helps to have a routine: wake up, eat, exercise, read, eat, playtime, dream time, bath time, and finish it all off by hiding in the closet until your captor comes, speaks, sleeps, and leaves. Rinse and repeat. Room teaches us what it really means to “make the best of things.”
For Ma (Brie Larson), this has been her life for the past seven years. At seventeen she was kidnapped and locked in a room with a bed, a bathtub, a toilet, a sink, a wardrobe, a shoddy TV, and a titanium, passcode protected door. For her five-year-old son, Jack (Jacob Tremblay), the room is his entire world. Jack lives within the fantasy that Ma creates for him. For all he knows, outer space is directly on the other side of their four walls, the people on TV aren’t real, and the man who comes every night when Jack is asleep may not be human at all. But this man brings supplies so I guess he’s alright… For five years Jack swallows Ma’s story and for five years Ma adopts a routine for the sake of her son. But Jack is getting older, the room feels smaller, and Ma is getting some wild ideas about escape.
I was prepared to spend the entirety of
Room exploring the insides of one room. Not so. Room is equally divided between their time in the box and the time Ma spends in a more clinically diagnosable prison: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Ma would do anything to be free of her captor – including turning five-year-old Jack into a decoy – but once her freedom comes, it comes at a heavy price. The world is big and open and full of choices, but what if the worst part about being kidnapped was forgetting how to be free?
Given the circumstances, Ma is a wonderful mother. She creates a reality that can peacefully exist both within a confined space and the infinite limits of a child’s imagination. Ma has an answer for everything; that is, ironically, until she starts telling the truth. Even after being robbed of the very foundation of his universe, you know for a fact that Jack will love Ma no matter what. Their love is the golden core of Room. Their connection is a safety blanket in – let’s face it – a seriously shitty situation.
While Ma may struggle with reconnecting to the outside world, Jack is far more willing to just go with it. He may start off as Commander General of the Shy Brigade, and I wouldn’t doubt a few male trust issues in his future, but it takes a special kind of person to embrace infinity after living in a world where the universe stopped at walls 1 through 4. And most challenging of all? The outside world requires pants, which frankly aren’t for everybody.
Tremblay and Larson present Room as an up-and-down affair. There are rare moments of mother-son bonding amidst the stress, but what makes Room particularly realistic is the amount of screaming from the five-year-old. When Jack doesn’t understand something, or an idea is hard to grasp, he yells it off. Just like a real boy. I didn’t necessarily pay to hear a kid yell at his mother, but it does add a layer of believability to Room.
I understand that there were plenty of things left out from Emma Donoghue’s novel, but in watching Room I felt that there were plenty of things left in; it drags a bit. Recovery from a trauma like this takes time, and isn’t always the most exciting thing to witness from the other side of a screen. Still, director Lenny Abrahamson pulls Donoghue’s novel together into 118 minutes that I’m glad made me pause and think, but that I have little desire to muse over again any time soon. Room is raw and twisted, but it may be a story better told in text rather than on screen. It’s a rough 7/10.