As a fidgeter, I raise extreme criticism of any film which does not make me forget to fidget. In other words, by the time I have finished munching the popcorn, I should be utterly gripped by the film, sucked into the kaleidoscopic void of the big screen where all thoughts of dethreading jumpers and scrunching wrappers into cubes are mercilessly banished. There are few films which completely and inexplicably achieve this, but Lenny Abrahamson’s Room comes close.
The film tells the story of a young mother, Joy (Brie Larson), and her son, Jack (Jacob Tremblay), trapped in the fortified garden shed of the man who abducted her seven years ago. As Jack reaches his fifth birthday his mother struggles to make him understand there is a world outside “room”, and whilst at first he staunchly refuses to believe the existence of the things that he sees on TV – “Are trees real?” – Joy’s initiative eventually succeeds in their escape.
Owing to the lack of social stimuli in Jack’s life up to now, the escape from the room and the discovery of the wide world around him presents a monumental social challenge. He cannot look others in the eye and shrinks at loud noise, and whilst Joy’s anxiety over his social state increases she is relentlessly pursued by the notion that she should have attempted to give him up at birth, rather than subject him to a life in confinement – an accusation which eventually leads to her hospitalisation.
Rather than focussing on the crime of the room’s existence and the man behind it, the film focusses on charting the mother and son’s progress in their integration back into normal life, and this is what grips the viewer, as they try to imagine what life would be like through the eyes of the pair. The first half of the film is set at a slower pace, concentrating on their life in the room, but this only serves to enact the pace of life within “room”, as Jack calls it, and increase the engagement of the viewer’s sympathy towards their captivity.
Narrated by Jack, the film lends us a fascinating insight into the workings of his disillusioned child’s mind, and consequently anyone with an imagination will find this an intensely thought-provoking film, as clichéd as the term may sound. Jack is amazed by the vastness of the sky, previously only available to him through the constricted square of a skylight. The famous “taking everything for granted” sentiment typical of any film portraying the disadvantaged is once again reignited, clawing on our inherent lack of appreciation for our everyday freedoms.
Room is what I would call an experience film; watch it once, and you will not need to watch it again. It is not necessarily the most enjoyable film, nor should it be as the subject matter is ultimately distressing, but this does not constitute it to be a bad film. Rather it has the effect of rendering it more rewarding to watch as the lives of the main characters gradually improve, and the film ended with me in a significantly more emotional state than when it began. Although as an adaptation of a novel the film can never reach the depth and detail of the original text, Abrahamson and Emma Donoghue’s attempt nevertheless results in a film worth going to see in itself.
Image credit: flickr.com/bagogames
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