Written by: Beth Kelly on November 17th, 2015
Theatrical Release Date: USA, September 4th, 2015 (Telluride Film Festival)
Production Company: A24
Approximate running time: 118 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Aspect Ratio
Director: Lenny Abrahamson
Writer: Emma Donoghue
Cinematographer: Danny Cohen
Composer: Stephen Rennicks
Cast: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen, William H. Macy
Synopsis: A troubled youth’s life steadily spirals out of control.
A World Enough and Yet: Room Review
Emma Donoghue’s 2010 bestseller Room is an achingly intense gem of a book, and if recent film festival reaction is to be believed, the film adaptation will be no less well received. Inspired in part by the Josef Fritzl kidnapping case, Room tells the story of a five-year-old boy named Jack and his mother, known to him as Ma. In the novel, the reader slowly begins to understand Jack and Ma’s situation as Jack’s narration flows through his days inside the eleven square foot world of ‘Room’. In the film however, the claustrophobic environment is more present from the onset, a small world inhabited by a boy who knows nothing else and a woman who has been kidnapped from her previous life.
Jacob Tremblay stars as Jack, bringing to life the precocious narrator of the novel and our eyes into ‘Room’. Brie Larson portrays Ma, real name Joy Newsome, and brings tremendous strength and pathos to the role. Ma is a fearsome protector, determined to keep her son’s life as “normal” as possible in a highly abnormal environment. In both the novel and film, the audience is introduced to these rituals of normality: exercise, television, reading, and arts and crafts. In a closed environment where they only have each other, the bond between Jack and Ma is palpable. In the novel this is further explored by the literal bond of breastfeeding, but is notably absent from the film.
Jack and Ma’s situation is less than idyllic, as the audience soon discovers. A man known to Jack as “Old Nick,” played in the film by Sean Bridgers, comes in the night with supplies – but in return, he rapes Ma while Jack is closed away in a wardrobe, listening but unaware of what is truly occurring. As events begin to escalate and Jack’s curiosity begins to grow, Ma is forced to formulate an escape plan.
And they do escape, but the real world holds challenges for them both. The second half of the movie explores this newfound freedom and how it stifles every bit as much, perhaps even more, than life inside of Room. Ma finds herself attempting to return to a life that has left her behind, and Jack attempts to find his place in a world that he has never known before. Ma is forced to defend her actions to nearly everyone, from reporters to her own father, played by a hangdog William H. Macy. Most distressingly, the close bond that Ma and Jack had shared is tested as Jack finds himself with a growing sense of independence, and Ma finds herself attempting to live for herself, instead of solely for Jack.
Not only does Room tackle the complicated bond between two people forced to be so dependent during captivity, but it tackles the aftermath just as well. In discovering the outside world Tremblay as Jack is wonderfully spirited and confused as he adjusts to the outside world, and Larson is alternately fierce and vulnerable as she descends into depression and post-traumatic stress. Joan Allen as Jack’s grandmother, Ma’s mother, is equally wonderful as she works to piece their new lives back together.
As an intimate look into the lives of a small family in the midst of an unimaginable situation, Room succeeds and resonates with viewers wholeheartedly. Produced by A24 Films and DirecTV, it is currently in limited release set for wide release at the end of November 2015.