As this is a “Spotlight On” post, please be aware that this may contain spoilers. If you have not watched the film, and you do not want to know what happens in the story, then please do not continue reading. “Spotlight On” posts discuss films of the past.
Watching Room at the cinemas was an experience I will never forget. It is one of those films that relies on the characters and without that reliance you would pretty much have a movie about a standalone room with two people in a sickly kidnapping environment.
At the time Room was released many cinema goers hesitated to watch the film due to its subject matter in the actual book, which is understandable but once you watch it, you are not only agape but moved by an outstanding narrative. Director Lenny Abrahamson read the book and constructed his interpretation onto the big screen, and his viewpoint converts it into a timeless movie. The director does not have many settings to play with but a whole heap of dialogue. You have to admire how he manages to encapsulate the room and make it distinctly absorbing despite its obvious limits. He knew that his only chance was to ensure both characters produced a performance that set an industry benchmark.
The reality is what you make it, and you feel relieved when Jack finally comes round and becomes curious about this new world. The world he should have been brought up as a child.
The director places in front of the audience some unique observations about the mother Joy, her son Jack and the realities they face. The reality is how you make it, and the film places you in the centre of it. It is a minuscule room, but the sequences of scenes do not leave the small space. You feel pinned within the room with the characters. You can feel the realness of the situation. The mother used the Room to her advantage to form a reality that is acceptable for her son, where she can still educate and keep Jack stimulated. You feel for the mother that she has had to make the best out of a bad situation with her son not even realising how dangerous their setting is. The realisation that a mother has managed to raise a child whom seemingly enjoys that reality which is a single room, with a ‘magic’ TV and nothing else outside it – just space. You are taken back by the situation; the film constructs this whole scenario where a mother has somehow created a life for a boy in a small space, and he believes that there is just room, and their captor is a wizard of some sort who brings the essential necessities. You pity the mother and admire the boy’s enthusiasm. Then you are entranced by a breakthrough scene as the mother takes a vital decision, to tell the truth. The pained dialogue is hard hitting as you sense no hope as a viewer witnessing this strange education about the world:
“The world is so big.”
“I want to be four again! I want a different story.”
The young boy becomes so distressed, and the displeasure in his voice shows a child not wanting to face reality. Jacob Tremblay demonstrates a character so distraught in having to accept the world different to the shed he has become trapped in. Brie Larson shows the pain so realistically that you as an audience feel empty. Is this it? The entire film is going to be a room with two characters? Is there any hope? The reality is what you make it, and you feel relieved when Jack finally comes round and becomes curious about this new world. The world he should have been brought up as a child.
The peak of her denial is the crux of the movie which leads to the disturbing suicide attempt.
The start of the second act is brutal filmmaking at its finest. Director Lenny Abrahamson puts you through tentative but tense sequences of scenes to which you witness the great escape. The music and the movement of the scenes at this moment leading up to Jack seeing the world for the first time are both terrifying but incredible to watch. As an audience, you are stuck in this room with Jack so by the time he sees the sky for the first time you get this weird sense of feeling enthralled by something we see every day. But with elation comes terror and the film turns dark with its slow and heart racing build up to Jack been reunited with his mother. It is cruel to witness and once it happens you are in tears of joy and relief. The film achieves its objective on the viewer. You felt the need to applaud.
And the applause is not lasting as there are many parallels with the film that conflict the viewer’s emotion. Growing accustomed to this new world was never going to be easy. Larson puts in a performance of a mother that has become lost. The performances from the family help provide this impact of someone in pain of entering back into the world. The grandma is trying to make best of a bad situation with the grandad not accepting of Jack who’s father is the kidnapper. It’s a strangely accurate performance of a mother struggling to come to grips with reality, and I think this phase of the film more than ever secured her Oscar for best actress. The peak of her denial is the crux of the movie which leads to the disturbing suicide attempt. An observation to be made is that her attempted suicide ironically helps Jack integrate into this world by been less dependent on her. There is a standout scene where Jack is piecing together lego pieces with the young actor narrating about the world. The lego symbolised the young boy forming his new reality. It is a shocking view to witness the kid adapt quicker than his mum.
What you have received is a well balanced and perfectly thought through adaptation of the book about two characters facing differing realities and adjusting against all the odds.
By the final act, you feel more relaxed as the storm calms. The performances are more chilled than previous scenes. They do not feel strained like the tension has been lifted. Much of this tension is raised when Jack’s hair is cut. The closure is finally coming.
And that closure comes to both characters and the audience as we revisit the room for the final time since the police released the mother. With the film been consistent all the way through this was shot and delivered beautifully. What you have received is a well balanced and perfectly thought through adaptation of the book about two characters facing differing realities and adjusting against all the odds. It’s tough to offer any criticism as you become consumed by the mother and Jack with performances that put you through a range of different emotions.
By Dan Hart
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