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Film Review – Room

3 min read

Room is the touching drama that chronicles the tragic story of a mother and son, held prisoner within a single room for years. Based on the novel by Emma Donoghue of the same name, and directed by Lenny Abrahamson (Frank), the film is a harrowing tale of survival and a thoughtful look into the effect of such traumatic events on the innocent.

After being abducted at seventeen, a woman known only as ‘Ma’ (Brie Larson) is held within the confines of a small backyard shed for seven years with her young son, Jack (Jacob Tremblay). With no access to the outside world except for a skylight and an old television, Ma is left to raise Jack alone while also fending off her abductor and his repeated raping of her. After planning a daring escape, her only chance of freedom lies with Jack who has not only never stepped a foot outside, but whose entire understanding of the world until recently was based on the notion that nothing existed beyond the room.

Room Insert

The film sports two of the best performances of the year, with both Larson (Trainwreck) and Tremblay (The Smurfs 2) delivering A-grade turns as mother and son. The first half of the film relies solely on the talent of its leads, and the two share a primal connection that drives the core of the story and provides the credibility needed to sell it. Ma’s only concern is for Jack, putting aside the daily torment that has ultimately broken her, and he provides her only reason to go on, with Larson never faltering in her portrayal. The crescendo of which occurs when all she has lost at the hands of her abductor finally hits her, and she realises the normality that has been stolen from her, proving to be a truly heart-wrenching moment.

Tremblay is a revelation as Jack, and a true natural in front of the camera, resulting in a flawless and honest performance without even a flicker of evidence that he is anything but his character. Watching him live within the confines of the only world he has ever known is mesmerising, and the innocent way that he interacts with his surroundings and his naive knowledge of a place beyond the walls never becomes caught in sickly sweet sentiment.

Shot in the close quarters with mainly close-ups and a dreary colour palette, Room creates an immediate sense of suffocation and intimacy. Abrahamson tries to tackle the novel’s reliance of first person narrative by having Jack’s thoughts sprinkled throughout as narration, providing a window into his sporadic and increasingly changing thought processes of the world, and specifically avoids some of the assumed character moments they’re expected to have, which both works for and hinders the film. There’s also the specific choice to limit the film’s soundtrack, resulting in scenes of utter silence that only helps to enhance the real world feel of the film and draw out the drama with an underlined sense of mundane brutality. Whether for the performances, or the story itself, Room is a tender and heartbreaking film that is not be missed.