Room, directed by Lenny Abrahamson and based on the novel written by Irish-Canadian author Emma Donoghue, is the story of a young mother and her son’s adjustment to newly found freedom in a world that neither of them are familiar with. 7 years ago, Joy Newsome was abducted by a man referred to as “Old Nick” and 2 years later became pregnant with his child. Her son, Jack was forced to grow up in the little shed where they are held captive. They call it “Room”.
What’s crucial about this narrative is that Brie Larson (Joy) and Jacob Tremblay (Jack) were able to convince the audience of the incredible bond between mother and son, and more specifically a bond that can only exist as a result of the characters’ rare and heart-wrenching circumstance. The performances from each of these actors were very good and I found that everything that they said or did was believable. Perhaps this is because the plot is so unfamiliar, it’s hard to know what exact effects such a situation would have on a person. On the other hand, I think that Donoghue genuinely has a very deep understanding of human nature and the effects that traumatic experiences can have on a person as well as the idea of captivity and containment. She established a story and characters that provided an amalgamation of drama and extremity, of rawness and naturalism. The characters are imperfect and damaged but not to an extent that seems forced. More specifically, the mother, Joy constantly shows us how much she wants the best for Jack and how she is forced to make very difficult decisions and take certain precautions in order to provide him the most healthy and normal upbringing as she can in such an abnormal environment. As a mother she must experience all of the same duties and challenges that other moms face in raising a child, however each challenge is that much harder because of their circumstance. We feel for her as she struggles to keep her composure as Jack struggles to understand the truths of their horrible reality and when she has moments where she can no longer handle it, we understand and we forgive her for not necessarily being the best mother, because she is always doing the best she can.
The cinematic style of the film feels like the perfect combination of realism and the filmic aspects of a typical Hollywood drama. By avoiding the use of only one side of the spectrum, the film is able to conduct a certain tone that I feel this narrative calls for. The story is very downbeat and unapologetic in nature and normally this type of drama calls for an essence of realism, otherwise it would lose its validity and emotional effect. However, Donoghue’s story depicts tragic circumstances that would seem unimaginable to the average person and the fact that we are introduced to this world through a 5-year-old makes the narrative a completely different kind of experience. Jack who was born in the shed and has grown to believe that his world is limited to this ‘room’ takes us on a journey where we get to see how he’s come to understand his incredibly limited surroundings. The exposure of both the mind of a 5-year-old, and the idea of being raised in a shed where his mother is being held captive provides a very deep and complex narrative. To explore such deeply psychological ideas, it is necessary to use various artful, cinematic techniques in order to bring out the beauty and wonder that would otherwise be harder to find in such a dark story without Jack’s innocence and discoveries made throughout the film’s progression.
The narration provided by Jack is fascinating as he describes his new discoveries and his perspective on the world in a very figurative way. He describes the world in the only way he can, with the limited knowledge he has and this lays the foundation for finding the beauty and wonder in such a downbeat and depressing story. “There’s so much of “place” in the world. There’s less time to be spread extra thin over all the places, like butter. So all the persons say “hurry up! Let’s go! Pick up the pace! Finish up now!”. Ma was in a hurry to go “boing” up to heaven, but she forgot me. Dumbo Ma! So the aliens threw her back down. CRASH. And broke her.”
Room’s narrative is unique and refreshing because rather than making the story centred around the drama of the kidnapping and and trying to survive captivity, it is about more than that. It begins by introducing the audience to the characters situation and providing us with enough of a back story to quickly move forward to what happens to joy and Jack once they’ve managed to escape from their confines and return home, a home that neither one of them was prepared to face. It shows that the escape is not always a happy ending, but instead the beginning of a long and complicated adjustment, burdened by the trauma of their past. Watching this film just might allow you to see the world differently.