Room: The Whole Wide World, by Rudie Obias
One of the things that separates humans from the rest of the animal kingdom is our ability to adapt to any situation and survive. It’s the reason we like watching survival movies, such as The Martian or Cast Away. The ability to endure anything is something very powerful, while also being uplifting. Irish director Lenny Abrahamson’s latest film Room explores the physical and mental stability of human survival.
Room is a film adaptation of novelist Emma Donoghue’s own 2010 book of the same name. Donoghue also wrote the screenplay, which follows a woman named Joy (Brie Larson) and her son Jack (Jacob Tremblay). Joy was kidnapped when she was 17 and locked away in a shed in the backyard of her abductor’s suburban Ohio home. Two years later, she becomes pregnant with Jack. The story starts on Jack’s fifth birthday. His whole life was spent locked up in a shed, but to him it was a happy life full of wonder. Now that he’s old enough to know the truth about his life on the inside, Joy has to find a way to free them from their captor so Jack can finally experience the outside world waiting for him.
Room is separated into two parts, Joy and Jack’s life in Room and their life outside of Room. It seems that most movies would only feature the first half of the film, as it would build towards a thrilling climax and a satisfying ending with Joy and Jack finally free after 7 years. But Room is smarter story than that. The first hour features all of those things, but puts on the brakes and resets for the second half when Joy and Jack are in the real world. What makes Room worth watching is experiencing what Joy and Jack go through as abusive people.
At first they are reluctant to engage with Joy’s parents (Joan Allen and William H. Macy), who are now divorced and have given up all hope that they would ever see their daughter alive again, and the media circus that waits for them after a thrilling and intense public escape. Joy becomes distant as her trauma runs deeper and deeper every day she is free from Room. She’s just mentally unable to adjust to life after abduction. Jack becomes more and more isolated now that he has to interact with other people who are not his mother. But as the second half unfolds Joy and Jack begin to put Room behind them.
Room is a special movie that isn’t afraid to show the ugly side of recovery. Often times, movies take short cuts to get through the nasty parts of depression and abuse. It seems that some filmmakers are willing to examine the process of recovery. Room isn’t shy about it. By simply spending as much time and weight with life after a kidnapping, the film goes a long way with understanding what makes Joy and Jack tick.
The biggest takeaways from Room are the performances, namely from Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay. I’m actually not a fan of child actors unless their performances are really notable (Noah Wiseman from The Babadook comes to mind) but Tremblay is really top notch here. He has to convey so much genuine affection and loss for a shitty situation that it has to be acknowledged. Much life Wiseman, the character Jack goes from completely annoying to lovable and heartwarming. As for Larson, her performance is career defining. She has to be really numb and on-edge throughout Room’s running time that it’s any wonder if she got any sleep between shooting days. I’m a big fan of Brie Larson while she was on the TV show The United States of Tara and the movie Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, but in Room she has a maturity that is beyond her years, as if someone has taken away her potential and youth.
While Room is a satisfying and pleasing movie-going experience, it’s certainly a bitter journey to get to the film’s overall sweetness.