Review: Room Features Amazing Performances That Will Stay With You
Director: Lenny Abrahamson
Screenwriter: Emma Donoghue (novel and screenplay)
Principal Cast: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Sean Bridgers, Matt Gordon, Joan Allen, and William H. Macy
Summary: After five-year-old Jack and his mother escape from the enclosed surroundings that Jack has known his entire life, the boy makes a thrilling discovery: the outside world.
I often talk about going into a movie with knowing as little as possible and this time I really wish I could have gone into Room without seeing a single trailer. I don’t remember what movie it was that I saw a trailer for but I knew as soon as I saw it that A: this movie was going to be something special and B: I really wish I hadn’t seen that trailer. I’ve been terrible about spoiling movies in recent reviews but I’m going to kneecap myself right off the bat and say “go see Room” before I even start this thing. If there is any justice in the world Brie Larson will get an Oscar nomination for this and it has one of the best performances of a child actor that I can remember. Come back here to see my full opinion after you see the movie, but go see it first because I’m going to give some basic spoilers.
Room is a gut punch of a film with two great performances and a story that has stayed with me for days after seeing the film.
While I often joke with people and tell them that I have the maternal instincts of a brown recluse spider I do find children interesting in that they are fascinating to watch. They are experiencing everything for the first time and I almost wish I could remember what it was like to see something for the first time. There is a video of a little girl standing outside and experiencing rain for the first time and she just loves it. I wish I could remember that. Room is a movie that touches on what it would be like to experience the world for the first time but being old enough to remember it. Five year old Jack (Jacob Tremblay) and his Ma (Brie Larson) have spent the last five years locked in a small room that has been Jack’s entire world. It makes you think about what it would be like to only know a room as the entire world and being too young to understand that there is a world outside of those walls when you’ve never seen it for yourself. The way that Jack even just reacts to the concept that the people he sees on television are real people in real places makes him lash out in anger that is so potent and so hard to watch.
There is a moment during the film where Jack goes out into the world for the first time and it’s just an amazing performance by Jacob Tremblay. He stares at the sky and the world around him which is suddenly so big he can barely comprehend it. He’s overwhelmed beyond words but this is also happening as Jack is trying to make an escape. I’ve seen a lot of movies this year and this scene, with Jack riding in the back of a flatbed truck, was more tense than almost any other scene I’ve seen in a movie this year. You want to yell at Jack to get up, to run, but this is a five year old kid, so overwhelmed he can barely function, let alone try to remember he needs to run for his literal life. The entire movie is just scene after scene of Tremblay setting a new bar for child actors, and by the end I wanted to give that kid a hug and a high five. He’s truly fantastic.
Brie Larson is also there to help him along as a mother that is truly at the end of her rope. At the beginning of the film we see her trying to make the room a home for Jack, and that they might even be a little happy, but the stark reality of how terrible things really are comes crashing down very early on. She realizes that if she doesn’t act soon she might not ever escape and has to risk a great deal for not only her but Jack as well. The movie doesn’t skirt around what is happening to Larson’s Ma when she hides Jack away or how Jack came to be in this world. It’s graphic and heartbreaking. The reality of the situation comes crashing down just as hard when they escape and she can’t keep herself together after losing so much time. The girl that went into the room is not the same one that came out and she’s having a hard time fitting the two people together.
Room might have a few nitpicks when it comes to certain plot points, but the great performances by its two leads, and the supporting cast when they come in, more than make up for it. It’s a movie that will stay with you for good and bad reasons.