Five year old Jack (Jacob Tremblay) and his Ma (Brie Larson) are trapped - confined to a windowless, 10-by-10-foot space that Ma has euphemistically named Room. Ma has created a whole universe for Jack within Room, and she will stop at nothing to ensure that, even in this treacherous environment, Jack is able to live a complete and fulfilling life. But as Jack's curiosity about their situation grows, and Ma's resilience reaches breaking point, they undertake a risky escape plan, ultimately bringing them face-to-face with what may turn out to be the scariest thing yet: the real world.
Review by Louise Keller:
The plaintive voice of a five year old boy whose experience of the world is limited to the confines of one room provides the film with its unique slant. Emma Donoghue's adaptation of her own novel ensures the perspective, while director Lenny Abrahams tells the story with great simplicity. That is all very well, but there are challenges in delivering such a story, when so much hinges on the performance of a young child and his interaction with his mother. Here, Jacob Tremblay delivers a wonderful performance, offering the curiosity and innocence of a child with a complex wariness of the unknown. As his mother, Brie Larson offers a credible glimpse of a woman whose bond and love for her son overrides everything.
Room is a gripping and intriguing drama that establishes its claustrophobic reality from the outset before using it as a springboard for something else. It's powerful and arresting, although it may fall short of delivering the psychological impact for which the novel is known.
From the outset the film establishes that that the perspective of the story is that of Jack's (Tremblay). We quickly learn that Jack's two greatest challenges as he lives his everyday life, are to differentiate between what is real and what is imaginary. There is clearly a routine to each day: cursory 'hellos' to the furniture, stretches, watching television, storytelling and non-stop conversation with his mother. The nightly visit by Old Nick (Sean Bridgers) is the time when Jack hides in the cupboard, peeking through the wooden slats as he watches the man remove his trousers. The tell-tale squeaking of the bed follows. Everything happens as a matter of fact.
With child-like simplicity the story unfolds and we understand the circumstances, albeit with no detail. We understand that the room and everything in it is all Jack has even known and as Ma (Larson) puts into train the daring escape plan, tension builds.
What are the circumstances that brought about this situation and how can a child understand a world he has never seen? These are some of the questions that are answered here as the film leaps into its second chapter, when Jack discovers there is life beyond The Room.
The performances are key but also important is the way the narrative evolves once Jack and Ma are part of the real world. The simple relationship that exists between the central two characters changes as other personalities become involved. There is William H. Macy as Ma's father, who is unable to look at the child; Joan Allen as her caring mother Nancy and easy-going Leo (Tom McCamus) as her partner.
Tremblay's photogenic features are shown in tight close up through most of the film, allowing the perspective to be uniquely from the child's viewpoint. It concludes with the same simplicity with which it begins. A unique vision well executed.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
What a thrilling discovery is young Jacob Tremblay, a consummate actor well able to sustain a complex, credible and authentic character for an entire movie. It's his film, and he shines. Brie Larson as his mother, Ma, is another plus for Room, her performance canvassing a broad range of emotional states with which empathise. Sean Bridgers has the nasty role of Old Nick, who is responsible for the plight of Ma and Jack, a thankless role he delivers with a subtlety that is worth remarking.
Joan Allen does great grandma Nancy, and William H. Macy has an all too short role as grandpa, Robert, Nancy's ex. Nancy's new partner, Leo, is played by a likeable Tom McManus. Also impressive in an odious way is Wendy Crewson as the talk show interviewer, her script a dry, self contained satire on the shallow sensationalism of a certain kind of the real life TV work it mirrors.
The first half of the film, all taking place inside Room, filled with action and suspense, is intense, engaging and intriguing, with the best, most inventive writing. It isn't sustained, though, as the screenplay runs out of ideas what to do or what it is trying to say - other than the obvious, that it's hard to adjust to the world as a 5 year old if you've never been in it before. It's not easy for the 24 year old mother, either, who has lived in Room for the past 7 years.
A few false notes later (notably a strangely clumsy scene when Jack is attempting his escape from Old Nick) we are concerned about Jack's concepts of the world, not least the idea of grandparents. There is a promise of something in the way Robert responds to Jack, refusing even to look at him, but this is never followed up. Pity, it would have been a vehicle for some powerful dramatic development and the potential for not only something to say, but a better ending.
Email this article
CAST: Jacob Tremblay, Brie Larson, Joan Allen, William H. Macy, Sean Bridgers, Wendy Crewson, Matt Gordon
PRODUCER: David Gross, Ed Guiney
DIRECTOR: Lenny Abrahamson
SCRIPT: Emma Donoghue (book by Donoghue)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Danny Cohen
EDITOR: Nathan Nugent
MUSIC: Stephen Rennicks
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Ethan Tobman
RUNNING TIME: 117 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 28, 2016