Room (A24 Films)
After five-year-old Jack and his mother escape from the enclosed surroundings that Jack has known his entire life, the boy makes a thrilling discovery.
Starring Brie Larson, Jacob Trembley, Sean Bridgers & Joan Allen. Directed by Lenny Abrahamson. Written by Emma Donoghue. Produced by Ed Guiney & David Gross.
What would you do if you were asked to take a leap of faith into a great unknown that you have never, ever experienced before? And how would you cope with it once you’re there? That’s only one, small element of Room, but sets the tone for Joy and her five-year-old son Jack, who are making the best of things while living in a space the size of a walk-in closet.
As the story unfolds, so does Jack’s living space, which he shares with his mother, Joy, played by Brie Larson. Joy is clearly frustrated and angry with her life, but always strives to shield Jack from the worst of it. Sometimes, however, it’s impossible, which leads to how the pair ultimately takes matters into their own hands. I point to the cinematography here, because how Joy and Jack’s living space is shot and depicted is so crucial to the plot. Cohen and director Lenny Abrahamson let the set tell the story as much as the actors.
The entire first half of Room takes place in an enclosure about the size of a walk-in closet, but cinematographer Danny Cohen is able to make the space seem both claustrophobic and intricate in detail at all times. It opens to a confusing space of shadows, light and elements of a house that don’t quite seem to fit together, all viewed through the eyes of Jack, a wide-eyed five-year-old boy who loves every part of his surroundings. Watching Jack take in the conversations and actions of the grown-ups in his life gives the feel of eavesdropping into the delicate and sometimes dysfunctional dynamics of a family.
While Brie Larson was perfect as Joy, it was Jacob Trembley who impressed me the most. It’s rare that a little kid can give an authentic performance that draws out so much emotion and empathy from the audience. In Jack’s mind, “room” is perfectly normal. It’s his world the rest of us are strange. Watching Jack evolve and sort out his own feelings and surroundings was heartbreaking and uplifting. Whether Jack knew it or not, the roles reversed between he and his mother. He became the resilient one while she was suffering from guilt and post traumatic stress.
Also, credit Joan Allen for her part as Joy’s mother. She delivers an understated and heartfelt performance as a mother and grandmother trying to understand her daughter’s pain while helping both Joy and Jack heal. It was her role with which most of us could identify the most; being a witness to a person struggling to get back to normal.
Room is a film about survival, coping and accepting your life and your own reality. It is emotional, but always stops short of overcooking the drama. A captivating story told through the innocent eyes of a five-year-old boy, Room is a muted, emotional masterpiece.
RATING: **** stars