‘Room’ is the film that has the smallest box office of any of the 2015 Best Picture nominees, due to the most limited distribution and the least amount of promotion. The only places I’ve actually heard anything about it is from film buffs. I missed it when it played at the Neon a couple months ago, but thanks to the Oscar showcase at the Greene, I got a chance to see it in the theater. It is really fantastic. There is something about actresses born between 1988 and 1990, they just have some amazing talent. Brie Larson has been showing that she is a good actress for some time now, but she just really shined in ‘Room.’ Jacob Tremblay was just as amazing. Add him to the list of actors who deserve a spot on the Best Actor list over Eddie Redmayne’s complacent performance in ‘The Danish Girl.’ A lot of people are under the impression that ‘Room’ is a horror film. The premise could be applied to a horror film, but people won’t be jumping at shadows after seeing it. Granted, there is a scene where Brie Larson’s character Joy throws a shoe at a mouse her son Jack (Tremblay) is about to pet, but mostly the film is about healing.
Joy has been held captive in a shed for seven years at the start of the film. “Old Nick” her captor had kidnapped her when she was seventeen, and regularly raped her. He fathered Jack, but Joy does everything to keep “Old Nick” from even looking at Jack. “Old Nick” is the only other live human other than his mother that Jack has any contact with during the first five years of his life. Joy always tells him to hide whenever “Old Nick” comes around. There is even a violent confrontation when Joy screams at Nick not to touch Jack. Who could blame her? I can’t imagine any woman wanting her captor and rapist anywhere near (not ‘their,’ do you hear that law makers in states that allow rapists to have visitation rights when they should be locked up?) her child. This clearly has an impact on Jack later in the film. He curls into a ball of fear when he runs into people on the outside who are trying to help him. When police officers pick him up and try to find out where his mother is, he can’t even remember her name. He is afraid of the doctors and his grandparents. When people ask him questions, he whispers his responses to his mother. This is not only the result of the interactions with “Old Nick,” but also the fact that Jack has always believed that things not in the room weren’t real.
Joy spends the first half of the film quietly desperate to escape, but trying to remain calm for her son. After she does escape, she goes through a gauntlet of emotions. She is happy to be out again, but she becomes depressed and angry as she sees how the people in her life have moved on without her. Her parents Nancy (Joan Allen) and Robert (William H Macy) have gotten divorced and her father has moved to a different city. Her mother is with a new man, Leo(Tom McCamus), who shows nothing but kindness toward Joy and Jack. She looks at pictures of her old high school friends and wonders if she still has a place in a world she feels has moved on without her. There is a brief scene where she becomes irritated with Jack and almost loses her temper, but never seems to blame for resent him for her suffering. There are also a few things that are un resolves, but there story is constructed well enough that those things don’t need to be resolved by the time the credits roll.
Joy’s father can’t even look at her son, which is very upsetting for Joy. It is a very powerful scene. They don’t use dialogue to explain Robert’s feelings, and don’t need to. He can’t get past the fact that Jack exists because his daughter was raped, despite the fact that Joy does not love Jack any less because of it. There is also talk of a criminal trial for “Old Nick.” If ‘Room’ was a by the numbers drama, there would have been a scene where Joy’s father is able to accept her son and a trial scene where she confronts her captor and heals from being able to testify against him. Ultimately though, the films ends with Jack and Joy seeing the room one last time. Jack realizes that it was much smaller than he has originally believed. He says goodbye to the room and Joy smiles indicating that her son being able to cope with the outside world brings her healing and hope.
The writing and directing for this film are both fantastic. Marvel should recruit director Lenny Abrahamson and writer Emma Donoghue. They were both able to do so much with limited resources and are among the many great filmmakers who show that low budget doesn’t mean cheap. One scene that really deserves a lot of credit is the escape scene. Joy fakes Jack’s death and wraps him in a rug so that “Old Nick” will take him away in the truck and he can run for help. The entire scene is filled with tension. Room will be available on DVD and Blu-Ray March 1, and is currently available to rent and buy in the digital format. It is definitely worth checking out and adding to any collection.