Dan's Review: "Room" allows beauty to triumph over evil
Jacob Tremblay and Brie Larson in Room - © A24 Films
Rated R for language.
Starring Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen, William H. Macy, Sean Bridgers, Megan Park, Cas Anvar, Amanda Brugel, Joe Pingue, Tom McCamus.
Written by Emma Donoghue, based on her novel.
Directed by Lenny Abrahamson.
Growing up in the 1960s, 70s and early 80s, I remember a time when I could stay out late at night, leave the doors on our home unlocked, and never feeling as though there were evil forces out to get me. Sometime during my childhood, the culture changed as reports of abductions, trafficking, abuse and other maladies began to dominate local and national media. The overriding message: “Your children are not safe.” Now, parents can face legal troubles if they let their kids play unattended. The worst-case scenarios come to life in film, too. Room is one of those movies, and could have been “just another” crime drama if not for two outstanding performances and a visionary director.
Alison Brie stars as Joy “Ma” Newsome, who lives in a small room with her 5-year-old son Jack (Jacob Tremblay). How Ma and Jack got there isn’t readily apparent as the first act unfolds, other than a few visits from “Old Nick” (Sean Bridgers), an oafish man who provides them with food and other living essentials. We soon learn that Nick abducted Ma seven years earlier when she was 17 years old, and that Jack is the product a pregnancy following years of sexual abuse at the hands of her captor. Years after the boy’s birth, the abuse continues until it becomes so commonplace that Jack learns to hide in a small wardrobe whenever Nick comes to visit. We also learn that “Room” is nothing more than a small shed in Nick’s backyard; a prison to keep Ma and Jack captive.
Ma soon devises a plan to escape that involves faking Jack’s death and having Nick depose of his body outside the shed, where the boy can run for help. The plan works, and Jack leads police to the shed where he reunited with his mother.
Being rescued is the beginning of a long and difficult path for the mother and child, as they learn to cope with the outside world, guilt, and the expectations of Ma’s family. Her mother Nancy (Joan Allen) and father Robert have divorced since their daughter went missing. Nancy has a live-in boyfriend named Leo (Tom McCamus).
Ma’s struggles are amplified as she suffers through severe depression and is unable to care for Jack. Eventually, Jack learns to be the “strong one” and helps his mother face her worst hardships.
Room, despite being based on the abhorrent subject matter of teen abduction, sex abuse, rape and other unpleasant scenarios – is a beautiful film. That beauty is seen through the eyes of Jack, wonderfully played by the young Jacob Tremblay. Equally brilliant is Brie Larson, whose inspired performance should get a lot of attention during awards season. Lenny Abrahamson’s subtle direction gives audiences a movie that focuses on the beauty that can be found in the middle of the darkest of places.
There is some coarse language and the afore-mentioned dark subject matter, but there’s also a lot of sweet innocence to be found inside and outside Room.