It pays sometimes to go into a film blind. Not literally, that would be ridiculous, but to deliberately shut oneself away from any pre-marketing talk or critical reviews.
Such was the case with Room.
The story unfolds: An apparently hard-up mother and young son make the most of their small and barely functional bedsit as best they can. A large portion of the film will concentrate solely upon their bleak and austere environment. Through terrific feats of imagination and creativity, young Jack (Jacob Tremblay) and his doting mother (Brie Larsson) make the most of their dwelling and it’s restrictive confines; one dilapidated single room, illuminated only by a skylight in the ceiling.
It’s a sorry state of affairs, make no mistake.
So engaging and thus distracting (in a good way) are the performances of both Larsson and Tremblay, that if like me you were blissfully ignorant of the nuts and bolts of this story, it takes a little while to start noticing their real predicament and its tell tale signs. Cork and foam insulation line the walls and there are regular night time visits from ‘old Nick’ that you could set your watch by. Suddenly the gravity of their predicament becomes all too clear…
…for there is a sinister reason that mother and son never leave ‘room.’
Room works on so many levels. It’s a fine bit of work that’s been critically fawned over thus far, and deservedly so.
Director Lenny Abrahamson’s decision to base over half of this film in just one room, never once interspersing footage with cutaways to exterior locations, is a bold but critical one, bringing to mind the same technique employed in 2014’s excellent film, Locke. It brilliantly ramps up the claustrophobic sense of trapped helplessness felt by Jack’s mother.
Interestingly though, young Jack, with no frame of reference as to what ‘outside’ even is, remains oblivious to his current predicament. It’s only once his mother begins to fill his disbelieving head with the wonders of the outside world and then hatches plans to escape – shaking up the young lad’s entire world and sanctuary in the process – that Jack’s demeanour noticeably changes.
Room is a story of our psychological strength under the most extreme duress. Even when finally there is apparent hope, our need to cope with the long-term psychological impact of our ordeals remains ever-present. As is so often said, only by coming to terms with our past, can we have hope for our future.
Brie Larsson is superb as ‘Ma’ but in young Jacob Tremblay, there has arguably never been a better child actor’s performance on the big screen, at least in my eyes. It’s a bold statement, but barring a Hollywood-induced, drug-fuelled, spiraling descent into oblivion and madness, a big star of the future is well and truly born.
Remember the name folks…