Adapted by Emma Donoghue from her own novel of the same name, Room defies all stereotypes of an average thriller based around abduction and abuse. Director, Lenny Abrahamson’s masterpiece is emotionally powerful throughout and does not allow the limited setting to restrict the viewer’s journey, taking them to places no other filmmaker has before.
Room does not rely on breathtaking or nail-biting scenes to grab the viewer’s intrigue (despite there being an adequate amount of said scenes). Instead, the trauma caused by an extremely sensitive issue is explored, as well as the affect it has on a young woman’s life.
Ironically named, Joy (Brie Larson) – also known as Ma – is captured at the tender age of 17 and forced to become a sex slave to a perverted, loner male. The film opens with Joy and her son, Jack (Jacob Trembley), celebrating his fifth birthday. It becomes clear that they are both confined by the four walls of a garden shed, with little-to-no daylight, living by a mundane, daily routine. Jack’s world reaches no further than the boundary of the shed and he is fascinated by programmes on an outdated TV set which resembles an unknown mystical force to him. His perception of reality and extremely limited lifestyle dramatically contrasts with the western viewer’s own sense of freedom and lack of ignorance.
After lying to Jack about the truth of the wider world since his birth to quell his desire to escape, Joy realises the significant impact it is having upon him and eventually explains about the world beyond the walls. This is reminiscent of Pato’s Cave and, understandably, it’s extremely difficult to describe the magical unknown to a five-year old unaware of humanity. Jack’s awakening begins to quicken the plot and soon the pair have hatched a plan to trick ‘Old Nick’ and escape.
If said outloud and without context, Joy’s decision to keep her son as her cell mate is open to negative criticism, as she experiences during her post-escape TV interview. However, if put into that situation, would any mother hand her child over to her torturer with the trust that said torturer will enable the child to have a better life elsewhere? While being treated as a sex slave, Jack is Joy’s only companion and they share an extremely intimate relationship – sure it’s right to consider the welfare of a young boy, but let’s not forget that Joy was still a child herself when kidnapped and it’s only natural that she would keep the one true form of life and love close to her during such a terrible time. Maternal protection is a natural and instinctive trait, and its power is incredible.
This intensely-moving thriller considers both a human’s moral compass versus the selfish instinct of human nature, while also exploring the natural, maternal protection a mother’s love can offer. The plot is less about the active details of escaping from a male, sex-obsessed pervert like so many of these type of films are, but is more focused on what it means to be a mother and how a young woman copes during and after this terrible situation. It’s not just about seeking justice, but about overcoming the barriers from the ordeal that still invade her mind; happiness does not simply become accessible as soon as justice is sought, but is something that comes slowly with time after overcoming the grief left behind.
At times, the viewer is forced to see through Jack’s perception of the world and become a part of his realisation, learning from his pure ignorance. The scene of Jack’s escape is incredibly moving – the clever screenplay allows the viewer to become invested in the prisoners’ safety, willing them to escape their torture.
Jacob Tremblay is phenomenal, demonstrating the innocence of a child’s ignorance perfectly and if he chooses to stay within the profession, I expect huge things from him.
Worthy Oscar and Golden Globe winner, Brie Larson, is equally exceptional, perfectly capturing the vast range of intense emotions upon reentering a society that has continued to progress while she’s been away. There’s a sense of understandable bitterness towards those who have had access to ‘normal’ lifestyles that she struggles to overcome as she considers where to go after her escape.
Room echoes the frightening, real-life kidnappings that are unfortunately so often described in the press. It’s difficult to imagine the affect the ordeal has upon the victims and much too often, the gruesome details and trial seeking justice is focused upon, without casting a thought for how the victim is supposed to cope or where they can go from there. Room explores an avenue that normally goes unnoticed as prosecutors and the government speed down the route towards justice, and I for one found it both refreshing and insightful opening my mind in these dreadful circumstances.