Cinematic Release: Room (2015)

Michelle reviews one of the year's best films, Room. 

"Check out my throat. Isn't it nice?"
We have all heard of those harrowing kidnapping stories where a girl is taken and held hostage for years. The most infamous case was Jaycee Lee Dugard, who was abducted as a child in 1991 and held by her captors for eighteen years and even bore two children. These sorts of cases hold a particular kind of perverse fascination for people: “What was it like?” “What did they do to the victim?” “How did they cope?” Usually there would be a cheesy made-for-TV movie based on the situation and a book deal to satisfy the general public’s need for gratification. These sorts of things gloss over the quieter moments and subtleties in order to get to the sordid and gratuitous details.

That space between events and emotion is where Lenny Abrahamson’s film Room fills in the gap. This movie is based on the 2010 novel of the same name by Emma Donoghue (who also wrote the screenplay for the film adaptation). A woman named Joy (Brie Larson) is being held prisoner in a small room with her five-year-old son Jack (Jacob Tremblay). The boy was born in the room and has never seen the outside world save for television. Old Nick (Sean Bridgers), Joy’s captor, sexually assaults her every night. Although this is a horrible, almost unbearably grim situation, Abrahamson manages to portray a beautiful and touching story, almost entirely thanks to Jacob Tremblay’s outstanding performance.

In the novel, the entire story is told from the point of view of Jack, the small child. I thought this was a genius idea because it allowed the author to use his naiveté as a filter between the horror and the reader. This same idea is used in the film as well and it makes the appalling circumstances easier to bear. Tremblay is amazing in his role, with his long hair and ethereal demeanor, speaking only in hushed whispers for most of the film. It’s truly a breakout performance and he is a newcomer as well which makes it even more incredible. Brie Larson is no slouch herself, switching between a strong mother figure and a traumatized and shattered young woman at the drop of a hat. 

"So mommy, will this teach me
how to grow pot plants when
I'm older. I hope so. I love weed."
Joy and Jack are the only two characters we see for much of the film and the tiny room that is their home is the primary location. What could have been confining and claustrophobic is somehow made to feel large and overwhelming, mostly due to it being from Jack’s perspective. The cinematography is lovely and subtle but it doesn’t hold back when having to illustrate some of the darker events that occur during the movie. What also makes this film stand out is that it follows through to the logical end of the character’s respective journeys—there is a lot of contemplation on cause-and-effect as well as how one’s perspective can change as they grow older. Some of the themes touched upon are: regret, unconditional love, PTSD, and how a family survives after a tragedy.

Lenny Abrahamson proved with his previous film Frank (2014) that he could handle a film about deeper issues and dark emotions while still keeping the film accessible to a wider audience. With Room he has succeeded yet again in making truly moving cinema that is bursting with love and the triumph of the human spirit.


-Michelle Kisner

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