Review: Room (★★★★½)

4.5 stars

Room is a heart-wrenchingly charming movie, it’s quite possibly my biggest surprise of 2015. The way it toyed with my emotions left me in awe of how wrong my perceptions were. Like many of the Oscar movies of this year, I went into this without even seeing the trailer and if you haven’t already, don’t, just go and watch it.

It tells the story of Ma and her 5-year-old son who have been kidnapped by a man called Old Nick and are being held inside a small shed which Jack affectionately, and Ma resentingly, calls Room. Ma was captured 7 years prior and Jack is the child of both her and Old Nick. Jack has never seen the outside world and to facilitate this, inside such a small area, Ma tells Jack lies in the form of stories about Room being all there is. Upon Jack’s 5th birthday, Ma finally decides to begin telling Jack the truth.

The movie opens with a montage of their daily activity with moments of joyful intimacy, however; these are equally balanced with shots of their inevitable frustration with eternal closeness. It’s done in a way that you don’t even question why they are only in one room until the first 5 minutes are over. This focus really helped draw the audience into this relationship and strengthens the movie’s dramatic moments from the opening alone.

Ma, Brie Larson, and Jack, Jacob Tremblay, have outstanding chemistry. Jacob Tremblay, aged 9, has to be one of the best child actors I’ve ever seen. Everything feels so incredibly genuine that their moments of intimacy can bring a tear to your eye as it did mine. The brave face Larson puts on can be incredibly convincing one moment, but her pain seeps through in the next simply through changes in eye movement and posture.  The two of them together are truly remarkable to watch.

'Room' is a journey out of darkness, director says

Due to the nature of the story, it also has its serious downs. The story is dark and horrific which Jack being an unconsented child that Ma won’t let Old Nick even look at, locking him in the wardrobe as Old Nick drops off groceries. However, although this seems the sort of movie that would present such issues in a dramatic style, the camerawork displays the story almost from the perspective of Jack himself. It uses many tropes from horror films which work wonders, not only in presenting Old Nick as villain instantaneously but also strengthening the audience’s connection to the leads. The movie left me breathless at moments in ways no other character drama ever has.

Obviously, Jack has never seen outside the 4 walls he’s always been contained within. Jack has the ability to fully articulate what he thinks and his views of the world are so completely ridiculous but touchingly beautiful that it’s impossible to not adore him. This is where the movie hits me the most. It stirred so many emotions in me at once that I cannot even name it. It brought tears to my eyes not only of joy, due to Jack being so wonderfully charming with lines such as ‘Monster are too big to be real, just like the sea,’ but also anger and frustration. I wanted to hold Jack so much, showing him all the lies that he’s been told are false and setting him free to experience the world with his childish wonder. This again can only be attributed to both of their incredible performances.

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The movie is shot in wide lens to make the room feel much bigger than it is. This works well when looking at the movie through Jack’s eyes. Alongside this, the movie is also shot incredibly close to the actors, assisting their intimate performances wonderfully.

Despite this, the movie ended rather abruptly in my eyes. The ending worked and I understand the intention, but it left a fair few plotlines dangling. The sort of plot points that if they were excluded, I would have raised questions about their absence. These plot points aren’t the centre of the story, but it would have been nice to see a more subtle conclusion to these arcs rather than them feeling just dropped.

Room is one of the most wonderfully touching and emotionally draining movies I’ve seen in a long time. Not since Her (2013) have I been so presently surprised by an Oscar movie. The poster and description made the movie feel like Oscar bait, but the performances are truly unique. Larson is a strong contender for Best Actress and it’s an absolute travesty that Jacob Tremblay hasn’t been nominated. Their chemistry is a beautiful balance between support and need thereof it, making their relationship gorgeously bittersweet.

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