Astonishing And Devastating In Equal Measure
To begin with, an analogy. Have you ever wrung a towel, a facecloth or even just a piece of fabric in general? You put all your strength into the movement, creating enough tension to drain the cloth of the water it possesses. Are you with me? Now let’s replace a few words of that scenario – the face cloth is the viewer of ‘Room’, the water is either literal tears or just emotion in general and the source of the wringing is the film. Everything, from the cinematography, the mise-en-scene, the dialogue to the extraordinary performances , works in conjunction to drain you so brutafully (see, I made it work there too!) drain you. Never has such a thing been done so willingly, nor with such reward. ‘Room’ is otherworldly in its brilliance and ability to shatter your heart.
Jack (Jacob Tremblay) lives in Room. As far as Jack knows that is all there is to life as he has never left Room. As Ma (Brie Larson) has explained to Jack outside is ‘Space’ and filled with aliens. The only other person knows of is Old Nick who brings them food, necessities and a ‘luxury item’ referred to as a ‘Sunday Treat’. When Old Nick comes to spend time with Ma, Jack must sleep in the wardrobe. Jack has just turned five and Ma has started to release that he may be old enough to know the truth. That there is a whole world outside of Room, but a world that has been closed off to Ma since Old Nick kidnapped and locked her away seven years ago. Ma was once Joy, a seventeen-year-old girl on her way home from school. Now no-one knows where Joy is. Joy comes up with a plan that involves tricking Old Nick into taking Jack outside of Room, allowing for Jack to escape and get help to rescue Ma. But will Jack be able to accept he could have a life outside of Room?
‘Room’ is a blend of true-crime and fairy-tale. It tells a story that is so abhorrent and seemingly hopeless in a way that is grippingly real, intimate yet somehow beautiful. Jack’s view of Room is fairy tale-like, where what are ordinary objects to us are the only one of their kind, have a personality and are therefore addressed with capitalisation (Table, Lamp, Bed etc.). The television is not a link to the outside world, there is no outside world, but instead images of things that do not exist. It is Joy’s view that is the true-crime, through her eyes the surroundings are depicted in their true horror. Joy is a prisoner, her child was born into captivity, and she has created this world to help them both survive. It is the blending of these two worlds that generates the film’s astonishing power.
But it’s the performances of its two leads that allow this power to land – to convince and cherish. Brie Larson presents an anguish that is so severe that at times becomes unbearable to watch. Her raw and honest performance is miles, lightyears even, away from the many mawkish performances of exploitative ‘true movies’. Jacob Tremblay provides the kind of child performance you see once in a decade, his abundant glee at the rose-tinted life in Room through to his difficult transition at learning everything believed was a lie. Joy tells Jack these stories to keep him sane in confinement, and Jack’s job unbeknownst to him is to keep Joy sane. The bond shown between mother-and-son is otherworldly in its believability and its depth.
‘Room’ is gut-wrenching, heart-wringing and brain-haunting. It’s not typical night-out to the movie fayre. At times it’s impossible to watch, and will haunt far longer than its two hours running time. Yet it’s a narrative journey well worth making, proving the power of cinema and the power of extraordinary performances.
‘When I was small, I only knew small things. But now I’m five, I know everything!’ – Jack