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article imageReview: ‘Room’ begins where most stories about captivity end Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Nov 2, 2015 in Entertainment
‘Room’ is a powerful, award-winning drama that depicts the life of a mother and son during and after their captivity, and the difficulties presented by both circumstances.
A large proportion of Lifetime TV movies focus on the survivors of horrific crimes, creating melodramatic depictions of the offense and its consequences. As terrible as these incidents are, the formula used to portray their stories is predictable and calculating to affect viewers’ emotions in certain ways at specific parts of the narrative. But that doesn’t mean these tales are immune to ingenuity; it just hasn’t been applied as often. Room approaches a story that has become far too common in the news from a fresh perspective that truly captures the intense effects of being held against one’s will.
Joy’s (Brie Larson) five-year-old son Jack (Jacob Tremblay) has never left the confines of the self-contained room in which they’re kept captive by a nameless man they call Old Nick (Sean Bridgers). He provides them with minimal provisions such as food and power, while clothes and other items are considered gifts in exchange for her obedience. Joy tries to raise Jack the best she can under the circumstances, but the nightly visits and compact living quarters are growing insufferable… as is Jack’s curiosity and his ability to hide in the wardrobe when Old Nick invades their space. However life outside of the room may prove even more difficult as time didn’t stop in Joy’s absence and nothing is as she remembers it.
Living inside the room is a constant rollercoaster of emotions. Both Joy and Jack are ticking time bombs ready to go off at the slightest infraction. On the other hand, they are all the other has and they cling to each other with desperation and affection. In spite of Jack’s origin, Joy protects him from Old Nick and the reality of their imprisonment by striving to create a happy home for him in which he plays, learns and has no perception of a world beyond their four walls. But necessity forces her to break the illusion and compel Jack to understand the only home he’s ever known is a bad place. All of their interactions are both heartwarming and heartbreaking in the context of their confinement. Director Lenny Abrahamson seems to enjoy self-imposed restrictions on his films and actors, causing everyone to thrive within the prescribed limits.
The second half of the film portrays their experiences outside of the room, which is very different for each of them. Joy is excited to return to the life from which she was so abruptly taken; reunited with her parents (Joan Allen and William H. Macy), speaking to more than just two people and able to breathe fresh air. Jack, on the other hand, is overwhelmed by all these fresh encounters; he yearns for the familiarity of his former prison and cleaves even more tightly to his mother amongst the overpowering strangeness. However as Jack adapts, Joy is slowly crushed by the countless changes that occurred in her absence. This extended depiction of their post-incarceration is fascinating and a portrayal rarely included in other similar narratives.
The bond depicted by Larson and Tremblay is extraordinarily genuine. Joy and Jack’s love for each other is seemingly infinite, the depth of which also enhances their other emotions. Since his life is mostly shielded from the worst aspects of his reality, Tremblay is only required to be a child that feels intensely. His character faces extreme happiness, fear and anger at various points in the script, and Tremblay represents every moment flawlessly. Joy’s emotions are much more complex and equally powerful as she also experiences paralyzing lows. Larson is tasked with the demanding role of constantly displaying dual emotions since regardless of her outward mood, she is always distressed by their captivity. Bridgers is once again an abusive patriarch in a film and he makes an impression even though he’s rarely on screen.
The film was the winner of the 2015 Grolsch People's Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Director: Lenny Abrahamson
Starring: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay and Sean Bridgers
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