By Darin Skaggs
At first glance Lenny Abrahamson’s Room is a tragic tale about a woman named Joy (played by Brie Larson) who was kidnapped at seventeen and now lives with her five year old son, Jack (played by Jacob Tremblay) in a locked backyard garden shed. It is not though; Room is a complex look at the extreme selflessness and complete selfishness that can come with true happiness. It explores love, real love, in its truest form. The darkness that is presented is the gateway into these themes that is executed so beautifully and so realistically that makes Room such a heartbreaking, amazing experience.
The first half of Abrahamson’s film is spent in the shed that both Jack and Joy live in. It shows their normal everyday life, which obviously is pretty depressing. They have a bed, bath and refrigerator in the shed. Those are the better parts of their existence. Other parts are not as decent, their kidnapper Old Nick (played by Sean Bridgers) brings them a limited supply of food, he uses Joy for his own personal humanly pleasures and of course that fact that the two cannot leave and have no positive human contact besides each other. Paced brilliantly, the movies first half goes by well, it reveals new aspects about their situation and has plenty of moments of tension with Old Nick and the inevitable escape from the shed, which they both refer to as “Room.” The sequences in Room are so wonderfully done, but then comes the second half where everyone’s talents shine, which include Abrahamson, the writer of the novel and the movie Emma Donoghue and the film’s actors like Larson, Tremblay, Joan Allen who plays Jack’s grandma and Tom McCamus’ Leo who is grandma’s boyfriend. Everyone is at the top of their game, and the second half is proof of that. The aftermath scenes involve some of the most heartbreaking, challenging scenes about people who were in an isolated, captured situation coming back to regular life.
Still, this movie might seem like quite the downer and of course it is at some points. The further we and our two heroes get away from Room, physically and emotionally we see a very positive look at love and the fight for happiness. The elephant in the room that scares away Jack’s actual grandfather (played by William H. Macy) and obviously intrigues the public when asked by in a broadcast interview is that Joy was in the shed for seven years and Jack was five when they got out. It is clear early on where Jack came from, which is incredibly tragic from one point of the view, but Joy shows so much love towards Jack; she protects him from the dark situations by hiding him in the wardrobe if trouble is coming, talks Nick into getting Jack a present for his fifth birthday and teaches him to be a good person even if the only contact he has is with her. Later in the most powerful, frustrating (on purpose) sequences Joy is challenged that she could have asked Old Nick to give away Jack so he could have “a normal childhood.” The scene makes you wonder if keeping Jack in Room was just an act of selfishness so she would not have to be alone in the small world she lived in. Joy refuses to call her son Nick’s at all, an interviewer even understands, but wants confirmation that biologically that is the situation. Joy does not give it to her, believing that horrible man will therefore never be a part of their lives. After a breakdown, Jack sends his mother, who spends a time away getting better his long hair, hair that gives him “strength”, to make her strong as well. It becomes clear that her love towards him has made Jack a decent person besides all odds and the two of them, even through the hardship, will always prevail.
The film explores such an honest view of happiness and love. It challenges that love is not always a selfish act, which Joy is guilty, protecting her son as much as possible or is it a selfish act, making a young child live in a confined area so she would not be alone in her suffering. Larson and Tremblay give such wonderful performances, that you know what these two characters went through was not easy by any stretch of the imagination, but they have not been defeated by the hardship, but made most of what was given, together. By the end of the film both Joy and Jack come to terms with the experience remembering the good times that were had and move on to brighter and better lives.