Beautifully and sensitively adapted by Emma Donoghue from her best-selling novel, Room superficially tells the uncomfortable, stifling story of a young woman kept prisoner, locked up in a cramped, dingy, barely-habitable shed for seven years and repeatedly raped by her abductee. It’s into this grim, unnatural world that Jack has been born and whilst his mother is devoted to him and does everything within her power to protect him and educate him, she’s becoming increasingly aware of the psychological straitjacket being woven around the naïve, lively child. Clearly their terrible nightmare dilemma has to end... but how to outwit the wretched Nick who keeps them secure and isolated in a garden hellhole? And how will Jack react if and when he discovers that the world doesn’t begin and end in Room?
It’s hard to define exactly what Room is and that alone is one of its many strengths. Initially, it’s a thriller, albeit one which resonates uncomfortably with real-life events (one of which inspired Donoghue’s novel) we’re all too familiar with from often lurid press reports; the shocking squalor of Ma and Jack’s situation sometimes makes Room a difficult watch, as if we’re peeking at a world too terrible to imagine. But whilst the film changes direction after about an hour – here it’s genuinely edge-of-the-seat stuff – it’s never less than utterly absorbing and engrossing and we feel Jack and Ma’s elation even as we quickly sense that there may be dark and troubling times ahead for both of them.
Back out in the real world and Room establishes its overriding themes of maternalism and the importance of family and relationships, and the need for normality in a world which is far from normal. Nothing is easy for Ma or Jack as Ma is reunited with family who thought they’d lost her forever and who are now faced with forging a relationship with a child they had no idea even existed. Ma becomes overwhelmed by the experience of being free and trying to keep Jack on an even keel as he’s introduced to a huge new world of people and places and Jack himself is at first completely swamped by what awaits him beyond Room, at first terrified and insular but later curious and acquisitive. Bree Larson and, in particular, Jake Tremblay are just astonishing as Ma and Jake although we might feel a little exasperated by some of Ma’s apparently self-centred actions later in the film.
Room is a magnificent cinematic experience deftly and sympathetically brought to the screen by Abrahamson who has coaxed stunning performances from his cast and created a haunting, uncomfortable, occasionally voyeuristic movie, which ultimately serves as a life-affirming evocation of the durability and resilience of the human spirit. Brilliant.
ROOM / CERT:15 / DIRECTOR: LENNY ABRAHAMSON / SCREENPLAY: EMMA DONOGHUE / STARRING: BREE LARSON, JACOB TREMBLAY, SEAN BRIDGERS, WENDY CREWSON, WILLIAM H MACY / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Expected Rating: 7 out of 10