Room tells the story of Jack and his Ma (Jason Tremblay and Brie Larson). The two of them live in a very small room, for reasons that will be made clear later on. They never leave, and to Jack, this tiny room is the only world he's ever known. But the time has come for Jack to learn the truth about their situation, his Ma making a dangerous gambit that gives them a chance of getting outside. But neither one of them is particularly ready to deal with life outside the room.
That synopsis is purposefully vague. Though the movie isn’t reliant on keeping its secrets, there is something still to be gained from the experience of discovery. This is a very good movie that certainly warrants a viewing, featuring some of the best performances of the year from its lead stars. It teeters on the brink of being too precious at times, but it never quite falls, the script careful to acknowledge the tough realities being confronted in the narrative. This is a powerful yet delicate film about love that sustains in the face of the most terrible of circumstances, and the pain that remains even after surviving an ordeal.
The opening scenes of the film are remarkable. Told from the perspective of Jack, the movie sketches out what it means for this mother and son to live inside this tiny space. Though the surroundings are immediately indicative of something not quite right, the movie is more to able to convey the happiness and love that exists between the two. It becomes clear right away that the two sustain each other, that in spite of the limits of their existence, the two are capable of being happy.
And then the movie quickly strips away each layer of illusion, revealing a portrait of tragedy made even more affecting because of the happiness that’s already been shown. It’s tough to talk about without giving too much away, but the film does a really good job of managing tones. It is able to convey joy as easily as it delivers pain and fear and sadness. It weaves them together into one solid tapestry of emotion, each scene embracing the complexity of human experience. In this story, characters form attachments to places of sadness, and also come to realize their inability to hold on to happy memories.
At times, the film comes close to playing things a little too cute, but this is a natural consequence of having the film told mostly through the perspective of a child. And it is Jack’s point of view that offers this film its distinct approach. The film is anchored on the performances of Brie Larson and Jason Tremblay. Larson is tremendous, the actress offering layers upon layers of performance in this role. Her character is the one that’s always struggling with acknowledging reality while maintaining the illusion for the sake of her son. Larson makes that burden palpable in every scene that she’s in. And young Jason Tremblay carries a whole lot of this movie on his little shoulders.
Room begins in an extraordinary place, and only grows more extraordinary as it goes on. It gains power as it explores how this difficult experience has shaped its characters, and how nothing is truly over. Through this extraordinary context, the film tells very simple truths about the very relatable struggle to protect children from the harsher realities of the world, while hoping that they will be prepared for the dangers that are out there. The film, in its own elegant and strange way, tells us that there is no set approach, no correct formula for raising a child. But kids are resilient, and in the end, love is really all that matters.
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