When I sat down in the cinema to watch ‘Room’, I knew that it had been Oscar-nominated for Best Picture and that it chronicled a kidnapping, but that was it.
As part of a new movie-watching diet, I’ve stopped watching trailers before going to see a film. It’s actually been great – movies are now largely filled with surprise and aren’t a massive let down because I’d already seen every funny line and cool action sequence in the preview.
Inspired by the Josef Fritzl case, where Elizabeth Fritzl was held captive by her father and physically and sexually assaulted over a period of 24 years, Room tells the story of Jack, a curious and blissfully innocent boy, whose world is his mother and the small space in which he has grown up, dubbed room.
In the film’s opening sequence, Jack observes that he and his mother, and maybe also a man named Old Nick, are real, and that everything else is either outer space or the TV world. His mother was kidnapped seven years earlier and has been held captive ever since. Room to her is a prison. Jack, although loved like any mother loves her son, is a child of rape.
One of its many Oscar nominations was for Best Adapted Screenplay, and Room’s script is a masterpiece.
A new language is created and implemented seamlessly, with Jack speaking in an abbreviated ‘mother-tongue’. Skylight. Wardrobe. Old Nick. Outer space. Room. The mysterious dialogue ticks in its own unique and disturbing rhythm. The language seems crafted for the film just as specifically as the set or the costumes.
There is something wonderful about the way the script unveils and builds the character relationship between Jack and Ma, aided by the fantastic performances of Jacob Tremblay and Oscar winner Brie Larson respectively.
I personally love when a narrative unfolds in one setting with one consistent group of characters. Classic films like ’12 Angry Men’, ‘Rear Window’ and ‘Breakfast Club’ exemplify the way in which dialogue and character relationships can grip an audience equally as much as car chases and shoot-outs. This is drama in its purest form.
The majority of conversation that takes place between Jack and Ma inside room seems almost trivial.
Ma bakes Jack a birthday cake for his fifth birthday; they do exercises together; Jack asks Ma about aliens and outer space and how a mouse can escape beneath the wall of room if there is nothing on the other side. Yet it is through this that the harrowing contrast between Jack’s blind contentment with the reality of his life and Ma’s aching helplessness becomes exposed. Jack looks genuinely happy in the place of his mother’s captivity. Although the idea is so confrontingly paradoxical, to Jack, room is home.
It seems odd to say, but after becoming engrossed with the world of room, it almost felt like a shame when Ma chose to concoct a plan for Jack to escape and find help. Breaking out of room simultaneously broke the gripping rhythm and character dynamics that we witnessed inside of it.
The director was faced with arguably a pretty good problem: the first 45 minutes are too good – how can we build on that to arc towards a final climax? And I do think he did a more than decent job.
Room doesn’t spiral into boredom and anti-climax.
The second half is equally or even more important than the first. Jack and Ma’s entrance into the real world makes you gasp, smile, cry and truly think. It just struggles to achieve the same electricity that powers the performance seen within room. Hell, I don’t even know if that’s possible.
What we’re left with is a really, really good movie.
Perhaps if it continued at the first 45 minutes’ intensity, it could have been really, really, really good.
It’s one of those films where everything works together to achieve its goal. The score is beautiful and weaves throughout the story almost unnoticed, the way a good score should. I also particularly loved the use of frenetic camera work, which makes everything feel unsettled, unsafe.
And I touched on it before, but it would be wrong to not properly applaud the performances of Jacob Tremblay and Brie Larson. While Larson’s acting deservingly rewarded her with an Oscar, Tremblay, who at the time of shooting was aged five, delivers a performance the most accomplished of actors would be proud of. I am genuinely excited to watch his development and see what sort of actor he can become.
Room didn’t win the Oscar for Best Picture, and that is fair enough, but it most definitely deserved its place in the nominations. Go see it in the cinemas while you have the chance. But bring tissues. It truly is an emotional roller coaster.
My rating: 8.5/10