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Room is a heartbreaking story that is great despite being depressing from beginning to end.

As you can imagine, a movie titled Room is a restricted narrative. Nearly the whole first half of the movie takes place inside a single room with basically two characters. Brie Larson plays the main character, Ma—who was kidnapped when she was 17 years old and repeatedly raped by her captor. Her real name is Joy, which is not very fitting considering her awful situation. Joy gave birth to Jack—who turns 5 years old during the movie and he has never stepped outside. Jack doesn’t understand that there is a world beyond the walls. The outside world to him is outer space. Jack doesn’t know that other human beings are real. His exposure to the world is through the fake pictures on television. Jack only knows his mother and his mysterious kidnapper (given the devilish moniker Old Nick).

This movie works because of Brie Larson as Joy and Jacob Tremblay as Jack.

Brie Larson

Brie Larson is tasked with the heavy lifting and she rises to the occasion. I first fell in love with Brie Larson a few years ago after Short Term 12—a bonafide 5-star movie still streaming on Netflix. Brie Larson is absolutely sweet, charming, and endearing. People are expecting her to experience a similar career surge as Jennifer Lawrence if she wins the Oscar for Best Actress this year. She’s the prohibitive favorite and deserves the distinction. And she’s a much better actress than Jennifer Lawrence.

Personally, I think Jacob Tremblay was snubbed for Best Supporting Actor. Maybe his nomination would have interfered with the orchestrated plan to retroactively honor Sylvester Stallone for Rocky. This little kid was much better than Sly mumbling along as a brain-damaged boxer—quite a stretch for Stallone and convenient that his character had a built-in excuse for his inability to speak. Jacob Tremblay’s acting was shocking for someone so young. Of course you want to root for these two characters to escape. However, it’s also natural if you want to throw the kid across the fucking room at times.

Jacob Tremblay

One missed opportunity is the failure to define Old Nick. You don’t have any idea as to his motivation and the man has no discernible character traits. I’m not asking for much, but I would’ve been better served with Old Nick having some purpose beyond needing to fuck every night. As written, Old Nick is a standard, one-dimensional bad guy. It’s understandable if you might find it difficult to maintain your interest through such a bleak plight, but I was on the edge for the whole movie.

Room is emotionally captivating. This movie places the audience in these claustrophobic confines and you feel what the characters feel. The depression would be incapacitating and overwhelming. Brie Larson’s character is just trying to hold everything together for as long as she can. When shit breaks down, it’s incredibly tense because you can’t help but scream and squirm in your seat.

Very few quibbles could be had with the construction of Room. There are no windows in this room, unless you count an annoying skylight—which I do. The skylight gives them a glimpse of the outside world. It represents hope while simultaneously torturing them with what they can’t experience. In this situation, it’s hard to imagine having much hope. However, the skylight is a frustrating element that demanded addressing. This young woman and her 5-year-old son are being held captive in a shed with a door locked by a passcode. Padding on the ceiling muffles sound, but the characters still scream at the top of the lungs during their daily routine in an attempt to draw anyone’s attention.

Skylight

Why the fuck wouldn’t they try to shatter the skylight glass? You could yell for help or even try to crawl up to the roof of this small 10×10 shed. I’m fine with the route that Room took, but there needed to be an attempt or at the very least some throwaway mention that it’s shatterproof glass (unless I completed missed that). It’s a relatively minor nitpick in an otherwise phenomenal film.

Room separates itself from being standard kidnapper genre fodder by focusing on the aftermath. If you could somehow survive this situation, would you want to? What makes life worth living? I don’t know how you could cope with being raped every night for 7 years. This movie is based on a book of fiction, which I found somewhat surprising since it seems like an amalgamation of true events. You feel like you’ve heard a similar story. Lenny Abrahamson (who also directed sleeper hit/cult favorite Frank last year) deserves credit for keeping the pace brisk. Although this should have been reduced by about 15 minutes, the third act is full of emotional moments that make the room rather dusty.

Room deserves your adulation. This year’s Oscars is an extremely crowded group for Best Picture, but Room is in its rightful place among The Revenant and The Big Short (though Mad Max: Fury Road is unparalleled in its greatness). Brie Larson will likely be the major recipient of this movie’s well-deserved praise—especially after she wins Best Actress. But I’ll also watch the next movie with Lenny Abrahamson at the helm. Coming off the unique and largely unforgettable experience of Frank, I’m certain that Room is not just a one-and-done case of Stockholm Syndrome with Brie Larson.

Thank You

4.5 out of 5 stars

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  1. […] Brooklyn Mad Max: Fury Road: 5-star review The Martian: 3-star review The Revenant: 3.5-star review Room: 4.5-star review […]

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