When you watch a film long into the credits scene, that’s when you know what’s good. People of the academy may be backing journalistic drama Spotlight, others might revel in the savagery of The Revenant or Mad Max, and perhaps some of you are singing Carol’s romantic tunes. But I knew right after watching this intense film that I felt different; I felt somehow more connected, more touched, more emotional. It unlocked all the tenderness between mother and child when the confines of their prison was clearly shut close. It wasn’t easy though. With a vision in mind for her little one, Ma painstakingly deconstructs the Plato’s cave into a magical place for Jack to make sense of things. She has constructed an imaginary world which has meaning far beyond the arbitrary value of things in Room itself. How they live and adapt and brave their difficulties throughout their whole ordeal is something that cannot be put into words. With little Jack beside Ma, and she being his pillar of love and companionship, Room is a resolute film of the boundless love between mother and son.
The film begins with a series of cut-away shots of the Room itself. Soon after that we hear the spirited voice of Jack (Jacob Tremblay) pierce the gloomy imagery on screen.
“Once upon a time, you cried and cried and watched tv all day like a zombie, until I zoomed down from heaven through skylight into Room” – Jack
We’re introduced to a precocious 5 year-old Jack who lives with his mother, affectionately known as Ma and whose real name is Joy Newsome (Brie Larson), in a room that has kept them confined for years. Brie Larson delivers a phenomenal performance, so authentic that it couldn’t have been closer to the truth. Room doesn’t embellish what being trapped must have felt like. In one scene, Ma is seen biting her hand excruciatingly to muffle her cries in the night. But Lenny Abrahamson’s style here always finds room( no pun intended) for hope, as symbolized in the light-through-the-window motif. But more explicitly, Ma’s positivity and impressive knack of the spontaneous immediately brightens up her son and breathes new life onto the screen. In one powerful cathartic scene, she and Jack shout in frustration but somehow manage to turn it into a screaming contest that relieves their suffering quite amusingly.
The film soon transitions from the sentimental and innocent to the thriller that Room has bubbled beneath the surface. But it unfolds, in all its frantic energy, like nothing anyone could have expected. It is here that Brie Larson shows why Ma is not just any character, but a persona so attuned to parental instinct that we all possess. We’ve been introduced to Old Nick who’s the twisted user and abuser. I like how Room veers away from drawing sympathy from fuelling our rage against Nick but rather draws strength from the incorruptible relationship between mother and son.
What ensues is one of the most intense sequences of events that will make your palms sweat crazy; It is one nervous, dizzy and triumphant experience. In the latter half of the film, Room’s tonal shifts are highly varied with the way one scene harks back both the dangerous and sentimental nostalgia of it’s previous scenes. For Jack, he emerges from the only world he knows into a world of ‘invisible germs’ and ‘things that are always moving’. One can only imagine the separation anxiety that come like a flood of waves. Braving past the initial alienation, Jack is a symbol of unfettered youth with undying resolve. But the most penetrating message lie with Ma herself. The film does so well in displaying the irony of Ma being the weakest when she is the strongest, with Brie Larson illuminating this aspect with an authenticity like none other.
In the end, Room is an utterly compelling film about the displacement of two bonded individuals from one place to another. Lenny Abrahamson’s directing is particularly skillful. He captures room with a certain visual tautness that makes economical use of space. Within Room, his direction isn’t trapped and instead finds big-hearted moments and warmth in every scene. At the rate that Jack is growing, Room is sensitive and thoughtful enough to raise certain questions that are resolved and others which call for deeper thought. But whatever the case may be, it is undeniable that both Ma and Jack’s lives have been shaped by the tests of their bonds. With the recurring emphasis of a ‘strong’ (a special word so charged with an intimate meaning far beyond the literal) , it’s obvious that some things remain a special part of their identity and that both have transcended beyond the boundaries that be. With two of the most uplifting scenes near the end of the film, Room embraces the power of love that’s so real and intimate, it leaves you in tears and touches your soul.
Rating: 10/10 My first and probably only 10 of the year. I was,and still am so moved by the film. Top marks for Brie Larson as well, she gives a performance that’ll stick with me for a long time. I’m going to root for her to win the big awards. Totally deserving! Jacob Tremblay was exceptional as well. And Room is all the way up there in my favourite films. This might just be this year’s very best 😉
Images courtesy of TG4 Films, Nope Films, Mauvais Plan, Inc. CampTrace Entertainment, Lester Productions and A24 Films.