“Room” with the screenplay by Emma Donoghue and direction by Lenny Abrahamson is the disturbing account of a young woman who was kidnapped at age 17 and held prisoner for 7 years. There have been stories in the newspaper of deranged men who have abducted young women, impregnated them and held them prisoner. And, this is the subject matter of “Room.” It is not sugar coated but is a very realistic account. The film won The People’s Choice Award at this years’ Toronto International Film Festival.
Brie Larson’s acting as Jack’s mother is so strong. And Jacob Tremblay as five-year-old Jack is a wonder to watch. We see Jack as a five-year-old celebrating his fifth birthday in “room,” as he and his mother call their one room shed. There is a television, a sink, a tub, a small fridge, stovetop, a bed, a skylight, and a wardrobe. The toilet also is the place Jack puts a small boat. This room is all Jack knows of the world. He has never been out of “room.” He comes to bless all in “room” as he says good morning to each item including the plant.
For Jack’s fifth birthday his mother bakes a cake, but there are no candles and that bothers Jack, who has a healthy meltdown. Jack cries, and demands to know why Ma didn’t tell Old Nick (Sean Bridgers) to get birthday candles. Old Nick unlocks the sealed door that has a code and brings the bare essentials she and Jack need. Candles were not on the list, and Ma explains they were not essentials. Old Nick also comes to bed her down in the evenings. During that time, Ma puts Jack in the wardrobe so he will be spared from having to interact with Old Nick.
Ma does the best she can under the circumstances. There are shots of her looking up at the skylight and one wonders why she did not try to break the skylight and escape. When Jack is old enough, she will teach him how to break out somehow. She cooks up a scheme where he is burning up with fever and has to be taken to Emergency. That did not work as Old Nick says he will get antibiotics. She then schools Jack to play “dead” and that act gets them their freedom. Or does it?
Just when you think the film is almost over and the audience can celebrate their escape, the crux of the movie starts. How does one who has been shut away and held prisoner against her will adapt? She and Jack are in the hospital and Jack’s immune system is very weak, and he must be protected from germs and even sunlight. For five years his only company has been his mother. Now, he has a grandmother (Joan Allen) and grandfather (William H. Macy) who cannot and will not even look at him. He has a step grandfather in Leo (Tom Mc Camus) who comes to love the little tyke as his own while his real grandfather shuns him. The “room” which felt small was safe. Imagine being in a big home? It could swallow him up. Imagine not knowing how to walk up or down stairs? Imagine how foreign other people are to Jack who had such a restrictive environment. While Jack seemed bigger than life in a 10 by 10-foot room and had melt downs there, it was safe. He knew nothing of “world” let along “stairs”, “trees”, “people”. Jack knew what he saw on television but he thought all were made up until his fifth birthday when mom thought it was time he knew all images he saw were pictures of real things, except cartoons which were not real. Now, Jack has a family to deal with. Eventually, he will meet Leo’s dog, Shamus.
But, it is mom who is having a hard time. All her pent up feelings come out in a rage at her mother and her father. Why was she abducted? Because they taught her to be so nice that she spoke to a stranger and believed his lie until it was too late? She was all of seventeen. And, what has happened to her girlfriends of the same age. “Nothing.” And that angers her. Her life unravels as a television reporter interviews her. Once again it falls upon Jack to save his mother.
Ma has to sort things out as Jack comes into his own. And “a little child shall lead them” and Jack does. We come to see Jack has a chance at a normal life as he plays with Leo’s dog Shamus and a little boy neighbor. Jack will be okay. Will Ma?
This was a hard movie to take. It is not for the faint of heart. The first half of the film is confined to the 10 by 10-foot room. The audience feels the confinement. It is one thing to read newspaper and magazine accounts of true stories as Jaycee Dugard. It is quite another to have such a realistic depiction given in the form of a film. Jacob Tremblay as Jack made the film. His sweetness, innocence and sheer determination carried the film.
Check your movie guide for theaters showing this film. It is compelling and eye opening.