A young boy is raised within the confines of a small shed.
Director: Lenny Abrahamson
Starring: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen, Sean Bridgers, William H. Macy, Wendy Crewson, Amanda Brugel
Rated: R (language)
By Matt Greene
How many times in your life have you been forced to finish a bad movie, book, or story, all the while just wishing it would end? Rarely is that longing as desperate in our reality as it is for the characters in Room. When Jack screams at his Ma, “I want a different story!”, you know there’s more to it than just a hunger for a different bedtime yarn. Her response, “No! This is the story you get!”, punctuates their situation, and ultimately our own desires, with such force it nearly knocked me out. Room, a powerhouse of horrifying drama and real-life suspense, breaks out from its confining premise with enough gentle moments of love to make it one of the year’s best.
If you can’t tell, I’m being careful with the details of the plot. However, know that it’s a setup that’s about as bleak as one can imagine. Director Abrahamson (maker of the criminally underrated Frank) creates an atmosphere of intensely palpable desperation in his small sets. In lesser hands, Room could’ve been either an oppressively gloomy downer or dishonestly optimistic hack-job. Instead, it’s both strikingly candid and beautifully grace-filled
This compassion for its subjects is thanks in no small part to the much-deserved-Oscar-nominated Larson, and young actor Tremblay. His character, in particular, presents such a powerful look at childish naïveté, he gives us one of the most amazing examples childhood trauma and perseverance I’ve ever seen. That theme (determination through suffering) creates an experience that harbors as much exhilaration as it does tears. Piercing and gut-wrenching, Room is a film you may want to escape, but will be glad you endured.
5 out of 5 Stars
By Cole Schneider
“Once upon a time, before I came, you cried and cried and watched TV all day, until you were a zombie. But then I zoomed down from Heaven, through skylight, into Room. And I was kicking you from the inside. Boom boom! And then I shot out onto Rug with my eyes wide open, and you cut the cord and said, ‘Hello Jack!’”
“Room” begins within a claustrophobic garden shed where a mother and her 4 year-old have been imprisoned. It’s not a typical opening setting for a drama; its closest resemblance is probably the thriller, “Oldboy”, which chronicles a man’s quest for revenge after 15 years of imprisonment. “Room” takes that idea, but tosses aside themes of justice to explore the psychological effects of a mother in despair and a son trapped in worldly disenfranchisement.
Mostly, this commitment to drama pays off, with unforced dialogue and terrific performances—both Brie Larsen and the young Jacob Tremblay combine subtlety and bigness. It does occasionally slip into Lifetime movie territory (the score is particularly, annoyingly manipulative), but the performances always dodge vapidity. Although there are films that explore mother-child psychology more interestingly (recently, “The Babadook”), “Room” is less troubling than most. However, there may be a better movie waiting for Larsen to step aside. If the story’s POV stayed with Tremblay, the film would have been more authentic and entertaining. His occasional voice-over ruminations are stunning.
“The world’s like all TV planets on at the same time, so I don’t know which way to look and listen. There’s doors and more doors. And behind all the doors, there’s another inside, and another outside. And things happen, happen, HAPPENING.”
3.5 out of 5 Stars