BREAKING FREE FROM THE ROOM
Joy (Brie Larson) is a young woman who lives in a tiny shack called Room with her 5-year old son, Jack (Jason Tremblay). They share a bed, toilet, bathtub, TV, a small kitchen and their only window is a skylight. Jack calls these objects by name as if they are living. The truth is that Joy and Jack are being held captive and the film takes us on their journey into their day to day life in the Room and what lies beyond.
I had originally watched this movie months ago during Oscar season. I know… procrastination. Jason Tremblay had been making his rounds on various award shows and taking pictures with celebrities but I just didn’t know how this cute, little kid was. It wasn’t until I saw the film that I made the connection.
There are so many things I want to say about this film and I have tried to write this review numerous times without revealing too much about the plot. The story is about a teenage girl who is abducted and routinely raped by her captor. It’s a story we’ve heard on the news but I think what is extraordinary about the film is the concept of the Room. On one level, it is a prison and the outside world seems mystical, especially for Jack who has never experienced life outside of the Room. You can feel it in the claustrophobic atmosphere of their environment. Then on another level, the Room is also their shelter.
The first half of the film explores that life in the Room but the second half of the film is about the two actually experiencing that life outside of the Room. Despite being freed from their prison, the claustrophobic can still be felt as it becomes more of an internal struggle with the characters now coming to terms with their new reality.
Truly, the heart of this film belongs to Jack as we often experience things from his point of view. I am there with Jack as he’s hiding in the closet. I’m also there rooting for Jack as he works towards his own freedom. There’s something fascinating and heartening to see Jack as he discover new things about the world outside of the Room. He doesn’t understand the intricacies of social norms because he simply never had a chance to experience it and yet he’s a curious boy who is open to try new things.
It’s quite different from how Joy experiences the outside world. She grew up in this world and there is a part of herself that she shut off as a survival mechanism just so that she could endure the abuse from Old Nick, her captor. She stays strong inside the Room but goes down a destructive spiral when she is finally safe again. Brie Larson captures that dichotomy in her character so painfully well.
I also feel like I need to commend Sean Bridgers on playing Old Nick. It can’t be easy to play such a despicable character that has no redeeming qualities. However, he plays the atrociousness of his character so well that the fear felt by the characters renders across the screen to audience. I can’t deny that he not only did his job as an actor but did it so well that it made me forget that I liked his character in previous roles. I may never watch him in Deadwood the same way again.
It’s a very powerful film in which the performances and the environment play a huge part in making you feel what the characters are experiencing. The Room itself is a character in the film in its literal and figurative form as both their shelter and prison simultaneously. You hold on to hope by believing that there is a world outside of Room. You give hope by believing that by giving your mom your hair will give her your superpower. Then, despite what you’ve gone through, there the hope that you can wake up and move on from the nightmare.