I was forewarned that I should not watch Room in a happy mood – well, now that I have watched the movie, I can see the merit in the advice. The subject matter of the movie is indeed quite depressing. The movie – directed by Lenny Abrahamson and based on the novel by Emma Donoghue – is about Joy Newsome (Brie Larsen), who is kept as a captive along with her 5-year-old son Jack (Jacob Tremblay). Joy was kidnapped seven years ago by ‘Old Nick’ (Sean Bridgers) which results in Jack’s birth. Having Jack helps to sustain Joy – but after Jack’s fifth birthday, Joy plans an escape with the help of her son. The movie then shares the story of how they try to survive outside the ‘room’, which provides their cage but also their safety all these years.
Although a lot more can be shown and graphically presented, Lenny Abrahamson skillfully presents the feelings and sensations through close-up scenes which then rely on the actors to portray the emotions realistically. These certainly come out poignantly – from Joy’s steely resilience inside the ‘room’ to her emotional fragility outside, to the emotional uncertainty of the Grandma (Joan Allen) and Jack’s curiosity, emotions and resilience on the outside. Room is more than just a seemingly depressing movie about a mother and a son held captive. As much as it provides a poignant, dark and sentimental story, it also poses a philosophical question. It’s also an exploration of emotions on our fragility when we dare to step out of our cage and face the freedom that we used to long for. Can we actually face the wide open space or do we long for the security and the comfort of our cage again? It is certainly touching when Joy unconsciously thinks that life on the outside is on pause just as it was before she was captured – that her parents are living happily at the same house. This is shown so beautifully with her coming back to her old room – still full of posters and mementos of her 17-year-old self.
There are many stars of the film, I admire Joan Allen‘s subtle performance with a mother who has to deal with the return of her long-lost daughter – who now comes home with a massive emotional baggage – but the true stars of Room are Brie Larsen and especially Jacob Tremblay whose acting transcends his actual age.
The sombreness of the subject matter may deter you from watching the movie, which is a real pity. Room is like a cinematic onion that you can keep on peeling, and you find something new to digest and savour. I finished writing this review and was going to post a tweet with a 5/6 rating, and kept on thinking and reliving the scenes – and the new nuances that I discovered, so I have to give it a 6/6.