Very rarely a film comes along that is completely unlike any other. Lenny Abrahamson’s Room, brilliantly adapted by Emma Donoghue from her own best-selling novel, is one of those films.
For five years Jack (Jacob Tremblay) has lived a sheltered life in the small enclosure he calls home under the protection of his Ma (Brie Larson). But now she has decided it’s time to tell him the truth about the outside world she was snatched from seven years ago and divulges a plan to escape from their captor.
Emma Donoghue’s beautiful script works in perfect unison with Abrahamson’s clever direction. Many directors would have been tempted to lavish the viewers with graphic scenes, turning Room into a fictionalised account of the Josef Fritzl case. Fortunately, Abrahamson only hints at these moments, sparing the audience and his film from needless exploitation and reminding us that this is not a horror but instead a heart-warming portrayal of the bond between mother and son. Yet he manages to do this without excessive sentimentality, a trap too many directors fall into.
The film opens on this comforting note, with Jack greeting the treasured objects he keeps around their room. It is through the innocent eyes of five-year-old Jack that we see the world of this remarkable film. The harrowing reality of their predicament is fantasised, even beautified, by Jack who sees his 10ft x 10ft home not as a prison but a whole world that blossoms with infinite possibility stretching ”in every direction, all the way to the end.” Under the protective guidance of his Ma, Jack is able to live in this fantasy universe. She reads to him from Alice in Wonderland, recites the tale of The Count of Monte Cristo and sings him lullabies each night. Only when we witness the daily horrors inflicted on his mother do we realise the sacrifices she has made to shelter him from her own torment.
Brie Larson’s immensely powerful performance is the emotional core of the film and combined with the extraordinary talent of seven-year-old Jacob Tremblay, you forget you are watching actors instead becoming engrossed in the intensely realistic relationship between the pair.
The tone of the film can perhaps be best summarised by Stephen Rennicks’ beautiful score that is both hopeful and incredibly moving. To echo Abrahamson the audience should be ”pretty clear where it ends up” and as Room moves into its second half, Ma and Jack enter into another emotional struggle. Jack must learn to adapt to the world he never knew existed whilst Ma attempts to reconnect with her own parents and come to terms with her appalling ordeal. What results is a profoundly human, deeply honest and utterly moving film that is rarely done to such perfection.