Brie Larson was the best actress winner in the 2016 Academy Award race for her performance in Room. She also won a Golden Globe, among other awards, for her greatly nuanced performance. Room was based on the best selling novel by Emma Donoghue. She also penned the screenplay.
I was a bit worried about what I’d have to endure in watching this film. It was rated R (turns out just for language), and I knew it was about a teen that was abducted, raped and gave birth to a son while in captivity. I also knew they had escaped. Other than that, I didn’t know much.
Thankfully, the gruesome details of what Joy (Brie Larson) endured when first kidnapped were not in the film. The perpetrator, referred to as Old Nick (Sean Bridgers), shows up briefly to give us hints about what Joy’s life was like during the seven or so years she was locked up in his shed, but the film focuses much more on Joy and her son Jack (Jacob Tremblay). Jack, now five years old, is old enough now that Joy believes they can successfully execute an escape. She sets into motion occurrences that ultimately lead to their release from captivity.
Once back in her childhood home, it’s not just mother and child that must adjust to the world, it’s also Joy’s parents (Joan Allen and William H. Macy) who have to come to terms with what happened to their little girl stolen from them at the age of 17. Joy and Jack get the therapy they need to recover, and her parents do better, and worse, with the sudden return of not just their daughter, but a grandson too. Not just any grandson, but one conceived by rape.
The chemistry between Brie and Jacob is great. I can’t imagine anyone else playing the inquisitive and brave Jack. The nuances of their relationship were believable, as was Joy’s meltdown after her escape. The strangeness of the world for Jack is artfully filmed, and their existence in a tin shed, how they interact and what they do daily, just serves to lay the groundwork for their eventual escape.
The media descended upon the two like the vultures they are, and I was reminded of the notorious instance of abduction and captivity of three young girls in Cleveland not that long ago. I wondered if the author got the idea for her fictional book from that incident. If so, she did a good job keeping the story focused on just enough details to let us see snippets of their life together in room, and then with Joy’s mother. Not too much detail, just enough to show us how they healed.
I recommend this film to anyone interested in the resiliency of the human spirit. Don’t worry about having to watch horrible scenes of abuse. This film instead focuses on the relationship between mother and child, the love that sustained them, and that sees them through to the other side of Room.