Room: A perfectly paced suspenseful thriller that leads the viewer right into the film so you will experience exactly what the characters do. “Ma” (Larson) and Jack (Tremblay) are seen in their normal daily functions—cooking, eating, sleeping, bathing—with a twist. Ma keeps Jack’s imagination active by telling him stories and helping him figure out how the world is. He has a birthday, and they make a cake, which is a bittersweet occasion. But Ma is strong and Jack ultimately feels supported by her. He has a sunny disposition—well, they both do—and in some ways it’s happily childlike.
The pacing of the film directed by Lenny Abrahamson (who also directed the fine quirky film Frank) allows plenty of time for the question to be answered as to why they’re in this enclosed space, and it’s done gradually, so it takes time for the truth to dawn. They do have a visitor periodically who brings in supplies, but Ma doesn’t appear to be all that pleased with him. Because Jack obviously does not know much about the outside world Ma has to weave stories and information about it into their daily conversations and games.
Because of the artistry of the director, the writer (Emma Donaghue), cinematographer (Danny Cohen, known for The King’s Speech and Les Miserables), and musical score (Stephen Rennicks), the film becomes a combination of suspense, horror, mysteriousness, and human drama, all put together in a highly coordinated ensemble. They give Room psychological depth in the main characters, and as well in authorities and people in general. Insensitive curiosity, impatience, obtuseness, and testiness abound right along with gentleness, love, and acceptance. Although this is about tragedy, it’s also a beautifully designed tapestry that fills up the screen with real humanness.
Brie Larson has accumulated praises for her work most notably in Short Term 12, The Spectacular Now, Don Jon, and 21 Jump Street, and this is probably her most demanding role because she is on screen for most of the movie. And she does a heroic job. Her young co-star, Jacob Tremblay, who already has 13 credits to his name in just three years, shows off considerable talent here. They sync together in a tight bond that reflects an isolated togetherness of five years. The experienced Joan Allen and William H. Macy are powerful in their roles as Jack’s grandparents, who appear late in the film, but each has his/her individual differences in dealing with an emotional situation, and help illustrate the jarring adjustment to traumatic situations.
Room is an unusual (unusual in its “truthiness”) dramatization of events that we hear about today, but don’t really have a way of imagining. Abrahamson and crew have given us a way to visualize and better understand the challenges and need for empathy of those who manage to get through traumatic situations.
This is a rare treat that combines stark reality with imagination and childhood joy.