Director Lenny Abrahamson’s Room is a difficult movie to discuss without giving away several crucial plot points. If you’ve seen the film’s trailer, some of these plot points have already been spoiled for you. For those that have no idea what the movie is even about, I’d strongly advise you to stop reading this review now and just go see it. All you need to know is that this is an extraordinary, life-affirming motion picture about the bond of love.
The film is told through the eyes of a five-year-old boy named Jack, exceptionally played by Jacob Tremblay. He’s spent his entire life in a solitary room with his mother Joy, played by Brie Larson. As far as Jack is concerned, there is no outside world. For a good potion of the movie, the audience isn’t entirely sure what’s beyond room either or why this mother and son have been confined to it. Are these people hiding from someone or something? Is this a bomb shelter in a post-apocalyptic world? Is Joy a mole woman like Kimmy Schmidt?
In time, it’s revealed that Joy and Jack are being held against their will, paralleling many real world kidnappings. In the hands of lesser filmmakers, Room could have played out like a Lifetime movie. It also easily could’ve played out like a horror movie. Room does eventually amount to one of the scariest and most intense moments you’ll ever see on screen. This sequence would’ve been the big climax in any other film. In Room, however, it’s only the halfway point.
From there on, Room is a very different movie than what you may have initially anticipated. We’ve seen a lot of great movies that tackle survival. What’s so engrossing about Emma Donoghue’s screenplay, which she adapted from her own novel, is how it intelligently addresses what happens after somebody survives a horrible ordeal. Many of us just assume that survivors simply live happily ever after. Moving on isn’t that easy, though. In some respects, adjusting and recovering can be just as difficult as living through a nightmare.
Room acknowledges that the world can be a cold, unforgiving place full of evil people. At the same time, however, the world can be a warm, welcoming place full of kind, caring people. For Jack, finally seeing the outside world brings out conflicted feelings of fear, wonder, curiosity, and apprehension all at once. We sense every emotion Jack possesses, almost as if we’re experiencing the world for the first time too. Even more crucial, we truly feel the powerful relationship Jack and his mother share. Whether trapped in room together or torn apart, their love for each other remains a constant unbreakable force.
Larson previously played a young woman who rises up as a maternal figure in the criminally overlooked Short Term 12. She brings that same comfort, anguish, and strength to this role in another Best Actress caliber performance. Tremblay and her couldn’t be more authentic as mother and son. It’s their bond that gets us through the hardships of Room, leaving the audience on a hopeful final note that’ll make anybody with a loving, dedicated parent feeling nothing short of grateful.