The movie opens with Jack’s (Jacob Tremblay) voice. It is his fifth birthday, and we learn what a day looks like for him. As we become aware of pretty quickly, Jack lives with his Mom (Brie Larson) in Room— a cramped space with no windows, only a small skylight, and a locked metal door. Jack was born inside Room, and has never been outside of it. It has a bath, a small kitchen, a bed, a wardrobe and a tv. Unbeknownst to him, his mother has been kept there for years, since a man--Old Nick (Sean Bridgers)—kidnapped her when she was only nineteen. In order to protect him from this terrible truth, Ma has raised Jack to believe that Room is the whole world—anything outside is outer space, and what they can see on tv is, well, “just tv”. The most fundamental things are completely different for him, and he can have a hard time even knowing what is real. Old Nick does not live in Room, but he comes in sometimes to bring things. So Jack doesn’t know if he’s real, or tv, or something in between; or whether he gets those things from outer space or tv.
What I believe to be the great accomplishment of Emma Donoghue’s book is this beautiful window into Jack’s mind: his interactions with his world, how he rationalizes the mythology created by his mother, and how deeply his circumstances affect his growth. At the same time, we see that Ma finds a sense of purpose in her son, and thanks to this manages to survive indescribable trauma. Donoghue’s character development, as an introspection of humanity, is inspired.
This powerful story of is further complemented by great visual storytelling; the vision of director Lenny Abrahamson (Frank) and cinematographer Danny Cohen (The King’s Speech, Les Misérables). And as for the acting, not only is Brie Larson compelling, but we also get an astounding performance from Jacob Tremblay, who had just turned 8 at the time of filming.
All together, this film offers more than one might expect: it is not a crime film, a thriller, or a tale of tragedy; but rather a story of human relationships, purpose, hope and happiness.