Movie Review: The Room (2015)
by Alan F. Zundel
The best movies not only grip our attention, but rekindle our sense of humanity. “The Room” is such a movie. The subject matter might sound grim, but it burrows down to excavate the best part of your soul. And just as in real life, the humanizing element is the presence of a child.
“The Room” begins in the room of the title, which is the only environment 5-year old Jack has ever known. He is on intimately familiar terms with every nook and cranny of the room and its contents, including his mother Joy. Or as he knows her, “Ma.”
At first it appears they are poor, as the room is cramped and run-down. But soon you realize that they are prisoners in the room. Now that Jack has turned 5, his mother decides he is old enough to know the truth. The man they call “Old Nick,” who shows up to spend the night with Ma while Jack sleeps in a closet, has kept her trapped in the room since before Jack was born.
Jack is upset and fights the idea that there is anything beyond the room, the only world he has ever known, but for him the worst is yet to come. Ma needs his help to trick Old Nick so they can escape.
To tell you more would be a spoiler, so I’ll stop there. It should be sufficient to dispel the conception, which I had before I saw the movie, that confining the setting to a single room would begin to get tedious. The movie was far from tedious–the suspense at one point affected me in a way that movies rarely do any more: my hands became sweaty.
But it is not your typical woman in distress TV movie plot. Just when I was glancing at my watch thinking that it was over and had gone by awfully fast, it takes an unexpected plot turn that goes beyond that cliché and is just as riveting to watch as the first half.
You see all these events through the eyes of Jack, and the performance of child actor Jacob Tremblay is astonishing in its realism and naturalness, especially given the unusual circumstances that Jack lives in. This is the best child performance that I can remember in a long time. I became totally caught up in Jack’s point of view and cared deeply about his well-being.
Ma is played by Brie Larson, who deservedly has won the Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award nomination for best actress. I noticed Larson a couple years ago in a modest independent film, “Short Term 12” (2013), her first leading role. (She also had a small but memorable role in “Don Jon,” released that same year.) But her performance in “Short Term 12,” as good as it was, didn’t prepare me for the talent she displays in this movie.
Ma runs through a gamut of emotions: tenderness, frustration, fear, calculation, desperation, cunning, joy, grief, depression—and Larson is totally credible in every scene. Credible acting, yet an incredible performance. I hope she wins the Oscar for the recognition she is due.
“The Room” is easily one of the best movies I’ve seen in many years. The script by Emma Donoghue, based on her novel of the same name, is tight and ties things up beautifully. The direction by Lennie Abrahamson is impeccable, focusing on the story and not flashy cutting for effect. In addition to the Academy Award nomination for best actress, there were also nominations for best picture, best direction, and best adapted screenplay.
I came out of this movie feeling renewed, my hope for life and the power of love affirmed. Children have a way of doing that to you.