Director Lenny Abrahamson has created with “Room” a compelling story that appears to have very distinct halves. But in reality, each half is an emotional mirror of the other. This reflection is strengthened by a powerful story of a mother’s undying love, the revelations of the world seen through a child’s eyes and the unwavering strength of the human spirit.
In the first half, Ma (Brie Larson) and her son, Jack (Jacob Tremblay), have had their world reduced to a small room where they see only a small glimpse of the outside world. It’s like an oversized coffin with running water. The suffocating feel of the claustrophobic design clashes with the world perspective the mother tries to give her son.
The boy is the product of the abduction and impregnation of the young woman. Despite the psychological scars, she finds a reason to stay alive: to care for her child. But, her resolve begins to show cracks and escape is the only solution.
Abrahamson shows how a child’s view that parents are their entire world can be literal. The mother tries to give her child an idea of what the world looks like without the boy ever going outside the four walls. It’s an amazing view. She knows what exists in the world but has to push away her own emotions about her caged existence for the betterment of her child.
The film takes an abrupt turn when the mother and son successfully escape. The director follows the pair as the woman discovers there are many ways to be held captive that don’t include brick and mortar.
She must deal with the emotional crisis that she faces with her parents, whom she blames for her lost years. There’s also the outside world that puts her in a media cocoon.
Jack’s discovery of the world is one of fascination and fear. He faces a world where there are more than three people. The viewer is allowed to see this world through the eyes of a child.
The power Abrahamson gets out of Emma Donoghue’s script comes from the way these two halves crash together. As unbelievable as it sounds, there are times when the freed mother and son must face deeper emotional battles and more confinement than they had in the small room.
Credit Larson and her young co-star with making the film so powerful. Larson dances on the same emotional edge whether she’s trying to calm the wrath of her captor or facing an emotional juggle with her mother (Joan Allen).
Larson’s Oscar-caliber performance is mirrored by Jacob. The young actor shows such an innocent view of the world that it is easy to believe he’s such a bundle or wonder and mystery.
“Room” is almost a two-person play. If either actor had not come so well equipped to play these fractured souls, the film would have never risen.
Under the direction of Abrahamson’s soft but tough touch, the actors turn this simple story into an examination of the emotional connections of parenthood, the need for outside support balanced with room to be an individual and the nature of captivity that doesn’t always come with a locked door.
It is as compelling as it is frightening.
- Rated R for language
- Stars: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen, Sean Bridges
- Directed by Lenny Abrahamson
- Running time: 113 minutes
- Opened Friday, Jan. 15