Chick Flick Picks: Room
Room is one of those rare movies that you’ll want to keep talking about long after the lights go up in the theater—not because it’s controversial or provocative but because it creates a moodscape so rich and powerful that it’s almost inescapable.
Based on the best-selling novel of Emma Donoghue (who also wrote the screenplay), the film tells the story of five-year-old Jack (Jacob Tremblay), who has spent his entire life in the titular Room, which is actually a garden shed where his Ma (Brie Larson) has been imprisoned for seven years after being kidnapped by Old Nick. For his first five years, Ma raises Jack to believe that Room is the entire world and that nothing exists outside of it, but when she senses that her son might be in danger the older he gets, she tells him the truth about the world and starts to plan an escape. It’s clear from the trailer that Jack and Ma ultimately escape, but director Lenny Abrahamson (who made past SXSW favorite Frank extracts an almost unbearable amount of tension from those scenes. In a lesser story, the escape and reunion with family members would be the traditional happy ending, but Room delves deeper into the psychological effects on Ma and Jack and how to make the transition from Room to the entire world when Jack never knew anything else and Ma had long since resigned herself to never seeing anything else. It’s a heartbreaking and uplifting journey, the kind that will stick to your ribs.
The entire film unfolds from Jack’s perspective, and Tremblay is fantastic in the role, believably loving and brave and terrified, by turns. It’s through his eyes that we see and understand Ma, strong and broken at the same time, much older than her 24 years. I first fell for Brie Larson in the 2013 SXSW film Short Term 12, and she’s incredible here and should be earning herself a great deal of awards season buzz. Joan Allen also shines as Ma’s mother, who just as much of a victim of her 17-year-old daughter’s abduction. The scenes of her tentatively bonding with Jack are among the most touching in the film.
The film also stars William H. Macy, Tom McCaumus and Sean Bridgers (who, between this and Rectify and a truly terrible Nicholas Sparks movie, I’m starting to think is the go-to guy for creepy dirtbags).
Room is now playing in Austin at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar, the Violet Crown (on two screens) and the Regal Arbor.