7. A film based on a book: Room (2015)
List Progress: 1/12
Trigger warning: rape, abduction.
What better way to start out my 2018 list than with some harrowing trauma and misery? On a whim, I watched the 2015 film Room last night, based on the novel by Emma Donoghue, who also wrote the screenplay. I have not read the novel, but I had heard a lot about this movie. It is about a young woman who has been held captive in a small enclosed room for seven years, where she has given birth to a son, who at the age of five has never seen the outside world and has no conception that anything exists beyond the walls of his home. The story is told from the son, Jack’s, perspective, and the first half is of the movie is almost entirely dialogue between Jack and Ma in their claustrophobic little home. And it is So. Good. The second half suffers a bit in trying to be too neat, but on the whole it was a great way to spend two painful hours.
Given how much of the film is just two actors, the whole thing is grounded by the performances of Brie Larson as Ma and Jacob Tremblay as Jack, who was eight years old during filming. And this is really one of the best performances I’ve seen out of a child actor. Jack feels like a real kid, from his cutest moments to his most obnoxious lashing out, and his and Ma’s relationship inside Room is great to watch. The back end of the film feels weaker when Jack is made a little too inspirational and cute to balance out the turmoil Ma is going through, but it is still a great showing from both actors.
The subject matter should make it clear that this movie comes with some trigger warnings. Ma was kidnapped as a teenager and has been held by her rapist for seven years, with Jack’s conception as one of the results. Nothing explicit or gratuitous is shown on screen, and I really respect how the director, Lenny Abrahamson, filmed some things: Ma is shown comfortably bathing in a bathtub with Jack, but it is never played for titillation and she is never shown undressed or sexualized in relation to her attacker. Her brutal reality is kept on the edge’s of Jack’s awareness, shown more through Brie Larson’s raw, emotional performance than by any voyeuristic camera work. It is a delicate, respectful depiction of a victim and makes for a great movie.
Despite being a bit unbalanced and weaker in the back half, I definitely recommend watching Room. Just go in prepared for a hard watch.
Would I Recommend It: Yes, definitely.