Jack (Jacob Tremblay) is a spirited 5 year-old who is looked after by his loving and devoted Ma (Brie Larson). Like any good mother, Ma dedicates herself to keeping Jack happy and safe, nurturing him with warmth and love and doing typical things like playing games and telling stories. Their life, however, is anything but typical—they are trapped, confined to a windowless, 10-by-10-foot space, which 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 its breaking point, they enact a risky plan to escape, ultimately bringing them face-to-face with what may turn out to be the scariest thing yet: the real world.
Adapted by Emma Donohue, from her novel shortlisted for the Man Booker and Orange prizes, and directed by Lenny Abrahamson, this is about a good a film version of the novel that you could hope for. Abrahamson is particularly good at showing us the child’s point of view and, even if you know what is going to happen when they escape, it is still thrillingly exciting to watch. Room is of course inspired by two cases from Austria: Natascha Kampusch, who was abducted and imprisoned in 1998 at the age of 10, and the even more horrendous case of Elizabeth Fritzl, who in 2008 was revealed to have been kept captive and abused for 24 years in a basement of her father Josef’s house.
Larson gives a powerful performance and is very good at conveying the nauseous wretchedness of her life, the strain of concealing the truth from her son, or rather the strain of behaving as if the truth does not exist, since it would be impossible to explain. She preserves the macabre parody of Jack’s innocence in this satanic Eden, with no one else there except for an adult of whose love he is confident, and (periodically) another whose essential goodness as a provider he has no reason to doubt. Tremblay is very good, too, with Jack’s basic childlike serenity: he appears mostly happy and certainly does not understand what is happening at night when he is in the wardrobe or what his actual relationship with this man is. Or rather, he seems no more subject to sadness and fear than other children on the outside. With a child’s ability to accept everything, Jack is content with ‘Room’, as his total world; he accepts this as we accept our world.
Brie Larson has won a clean sweep of an Oscar and Golden Globe and BAFTA Best Actress awards and the film, the director, Lenny Abrahamson, and the screenwriter, Emma Donohue were nominated for Oscars.
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Venue: William Loveless Hall