The accolades riding on this movie is so numerous that you cannot help but go to the cinema with high expectations. Fresh off the new year and in the full swing of the awards season, Brie Larson has already won the Golden Globes for Best Actress in a Drama for her role in Room. Directed by Lenny Abrahamson, Room is heralded to be an Oscar front runner with four nominations for Best Actress, Adapted Screenplay, Directing, and even the most coveted Best Picture.
The basis of the movie comes from an acclaimed foundation; the movie is adapted from the Orange prize-winning novel of the same name written by Emma Donoghue in 2010, which was also short listed for the Man Booker Prize. Donoghue wrote the novel based on the real Fritzl case, taking inspiration for the five-year-old Jack from Felix Fritzl.
At the heart of the story is Ma, Joy Newsome (Brie Larson) and Jack (Jacob Tremblay) who are held captive in a 10 by 10 shed called Room by Old Nick (Sean Bridgers) who kidnapped Joy when she was a naive 17-year-old teenager. We view the movie from Jack’s point of view, who believes that Room is the whole world and that the people and places he saw on TV are from another universe. Ma lets him believe this as opposed to letting him know the ugly reality. The only suggestion that there may be something more outside of Room is Skylight, which Jack takes to be how he got to join Ma in Room when he “zoomed down from heaven”.
When it turns out that Old Nick has been laid off and their survival in Room is uncertain, Ma realises that she has to find a way to escape. She attempts to tell Jack the truth that Room is far from the real world. The frustration builds up as Jack refuses to believe Ma.
Only there isn’t a different story; this is the reality that they are living in.
Truths Among Truths
The emotions run strong in this show, and they also run true. I remember reading this story two years ago and having moments when I had to stop reading because I was so overwhelmed by the unsettling emotions – the movie delivers the same impact. Even though the movie had very little action, it captivated me. Part of the reason is because the scenes that Donoghue imagined happening in Room are not out of the ordinary. By normalising the grotesque situation, it becomes more relatable. We see the characters living their lives with seeming normality. There was breakfast, exercise in the form of track and yoga, reading as well as activities such as making crafts with toilet paper rolls and egg shells. How else are we to know how it feels like to be in Room, then to visualise exercise, track, of less than 10 feet per lap?
There is no question about the standout performance by Brie Larson, who dove into the difficult scenes and dealt with it apropos. The seven-year-old Jacob Tremblay (Smurfs 2) brings up the rear with a brilliant portrayal of Jack. He had the perfect mix of childlike innocence, mischief and sensitivity to portray Jack – indeed, I can think of no other boy who can bring out that perceptivity of a five-year-old boy. His energy is infectious, and at times, propels the story forward while being harmonious with Larson’s performance. I look forward to great things from this boy.
Readers who have read the book, you know how the story pans out – with Emma Donoghue at the helm of screenplay, I am happy to report that it doesn’t stray. The artful cinematography and close up takes of grief and emotion, if it is even possible, further enhances the intent of the book to make the viewer feel – and feel you do. For those who have not read the book (please do read, it’s a beautiful piece of work), you will not be disappointed by the ending. The movie ends in a full circle and makes you reflect on the horrors they went through and not wishing this to happen to anyone. Then it hits you that it did.