Film Review: Room

image courtesy of: athenacinema.com

by: Mike Reistetter

The story you have sadly heard on the news one too many times has received a deeply visceral film treatment, in the form of Lenny Abrahamson’s breakout feature, Room.

Room tells the tale of five-year-old boy named Jack who knows of no other world beyond the confined area in which he is raised. His mother, whom he affectionately calls “Ma” was abducted as a teenager by a man claiming to have lost his dog. Seven years later, he still has her trapped in his garden shed, and was responsible for impregnating Ma with Jack two years into her imprisonment.

But, the real premise of the story is not to dishearten viewers with the cruel truths behind Ma and Jack’s less-than-ideal living conditions. Instead, it is about experiencing the prevailing beauty of utter strength. Ma waits till Jack is five-years-old to tell him about the wonders of the outside world; That the people they see on their restricted television access are real, and that Ma once had a family too, before she was taken from them by their electricity and food source provider, whom they only know as “Old Nick.”

Initially resistant to the realities Ma exposes him too, Jack is forced to literally grow up overnight, and help Ma in her attempts to devise full-proof escape plans.

Those who adored Tina Fey’s silly rendition of post-captivity, “fish out of water” syndrome with Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt would find solace in the dramatic end of the same spectrum finally being tackled within this multiple Academy Award-nominated film.

Abrahamson personifies the impressionable Jack, played by Jacob Tremblay, through heart-tugging voiceovers, while amassing confident film editing tools and shot sequencing to add emphasis upon the struggle of shattered innocence.

The musical score featured what I could only describe as homage or definitive borrowing from the climactic scene of the 2011 Oscar-nominated Baseball film, Moneyball. This arrangement immediately caught my ear, recognizably so, yet it worked magnificently with the tone of one of Room’s most tension-filled scenes as well.

Perhaps no standout take away from the film is as clearly detectable as Brie Larson (21 Jump Street, Trainwreck) in her role as “Ma.” She goes above and beyond what was required of her within newcomer and Oscar-nominated Emma Donoghue’s cathartic script. Larson humanized an almost “film-de-clef” inspired, non-fictional character, who faces the surreal odds of constant dehumanization by her captor.

Three years ago, I saw Brie Larson was cast in Joseph Gordon Levitt’s directional debut, Don Jon, and I was ecstatic. But when I saw the film, I was surprised to see Larson’s role was as the emotionlessly deadpan, “texting” spectator, whose sole purpose in the film was to sit at the dinner table and evoke judgments through her numerous eye rolls. I was disappointed to see such a talented actress be given nearly no dialogue whatsoever. But I actually remember thinking to myself in the theater, “wow, she must be saving up for something big.”

Despite this minor hang up, I am still in agreeance with all of mass media. If Larson does not win Best Actress this year, the Academy should be tried in criminal court. Room itself even has an honest chance of pushing Spotlight out of contention as the frontrunner for Best Picture. Personally, I would be satisfied if either won, so long as The Revenant is defeated!