It’s hard to talk about this film without giving away that which may have been a pretty big surprise to those who saw it without knowing what it’s about. That is the blindness with which I saw Room – a Best Picture nominee directed by Lenny Abrahamson and not to be confused with the world’s greatest bad movie (and yes, I’m still planning to review that one crowdfunded documentary I alluded to in my Bridge of Spies post).
Indeed, when I watched the film, I didn’t know that it was about a woman and her child who have been trapped inside the same room for an undisclosed amount of years, so it took me a longer-than-average while to realize it. As it opens, it seems as if they’re a fairly normal family, albeit a poor one living under not too grandiose conditions. You don’t think about the fact that neither of them is shown going outside.
They are Joy, played by Brie Larson, and her irritating son Jack, played by Jacob Trambley. Giving an astoundingly strong performance, Trambley is previously known for such prestigious roles as Blue the baby in Smurfs 2 and probably commercials ‘n stuff. They live in what’s revealed to be a shed, which they simply refer to as “Room”, with no windows besides one in the ceiling, occasionally getting visits from Joy’s abusive boyfriend, known to them as “Old Nick” (Sean Bridges). We learn that this man has in fact been keeping them trapped inside the structure for at least as long as Jack has lived, and only comes to them when it’s time to resupply or have sex with Joy.
At one point, Jack falls ill and needs medical attention of the sort that’s not exactly available within a secluded shack. Old Nick wraps him in a carpet and puts him in the back of his pick-up truck (!) to transport him to the hospital, allowing him to easily escape and alert locals as well as the police to what’s going on. Well, that was easy.
The film, from this point, is mainly focusing on how Jack and Joy try to adapt to a life in the real world, as well as gain acceptance from Joy’s family members. Joy’s parents (William H. Macy and Joan Allen) have split up, Joy herself begins struggling with suicidal tendencies, and Jack has trouble getting used to the real world, speaking only to his mom and frequently mentioning how he wants to go back to Room.
As much as I (eventually) liked Room, there were a handful of moments that felt kinda forced in their attempts to tug at the audience’s heartstrings and make the relationship between Joy and Jack seem oh so touching. A lot of the character logic – see the pick-up truck scene – made very little sense to me, and the way the film’s middle feels like an ending, or at least a climax, might have been a weird structural error. Everything that happens afterwards almost becomes its own story, although I won’t harp on this too much since it’s merely an impression I got personally when watching the film and probably isn’t an actual fault in the film’s structure or mood.
I will say that there was a lot in this film that I really loved, including the way the character of Jack was portrayed and how they wrote his complete non-understanding of the world. The fact that most things he sees on their TV are things that happen outside their room – out in the world – is something he needs to have explained to him by mommy many a time. He does eventually begin to catch on, when he learns to differentiate between things on TV that are real (news and such) and things that are “just TV” (Dora the Explorer).
And as I said before, the child actor playing Jack is pretty great, but mainly when he’s being angry and difficult as opposed to glad, almost as if the actor himself was having a lousy time when he made this movie. On that note, Brie Larson is starting to seem like a worthy contender in the Best Actress category this year.
Room is powerful in many of the right ways, but there are aspects of it that prevent me from giving it my highest rating. Even if I had rated it higher than 4, it wouldn’t mean I necessarily admired it more than The Revenant or Anomalisa, the latter of which is still my favorite out of all the Oscar nominees I’ve marathoned. If I ever were to revise my “Best of 2015” list for accuracy, Anomalisa might take the Number 1 spot.
All-in-all, I was impressed by the film’s acting and the way its story unraveled, revealing more and more about the two main characters’ state of being. I wasn’t quite as wowed by Room as I had hoped, but it doesn’t make it any less great-ish. Does its heavy acting and subject matter make it deserve more than the 4/5 I’m giving it? Who knows, what do ratings matter? Oh hi, Mark.