Friday, February 5, 2016

Room




Though I usually try to catch up on all of the Oscar-nominated films each year, I had to more or less be dragged to see Room. In my defense, I just wanted to go see Star Wars again... I feel like that's a pretty good excuse... But after my wife insisted that we go see this movie, I geared myself up for a pretentious indie film that was sure to be overrated. Things weren't looking up when the trailers showed me nothing but my worst fears of what Room would be, a shallow concept that has nothing else to offer beyond its initial premise. Not only that, but some idiot decided to bring his five year-old son to this R-rated movie, which led to 2 hours of non-stop questions from the confused child who probably just wanted to see Kung Fu Panda 3 in the neighboring theater. Anyway, as you can see from my star rating, I realized my fears were entirely unfounded once this movie got going. This is a hard one to discuss without talking about specific plot points, so SPOILER ALERT from here on out.

Joy Newsome was abducted as a 17 year old and has been forced to live in a small shed in the backyard of her captor while he forces himself upon her every night. This eventually led to the birth of her son, Jack, who knows nothing of the world outside the four walls of "Room". Not sure how to address their captivity to her son, Joy decided it would be easier to deny the existence of an outside world entirely. With the help of a barely functioning TV and the so-called "generosity" of their captor (simply called "Old Nick", for lack of a proper name) providing them with the basic needs for survival, Joy is able to make a fairly comfortable life for her now 5 year-old son. However, after Old Nick begins to take an interest in Jack, Joy knows they have to find a way to escape before anything happens to her son.

It may sound like I explained most of the plot in that short summary, but honestly that only covers about the first 20-25 minutes of the film. I went into the movie thinking it would be mostly centered around their struggle to survive within the room and their numerous (and probably unsuccessful) escape attempts. To my surprise, the events in the room only make up the first half of the film. While some might see that as a problem due to the lack of suspense beyond that point in the story, the most though-provoking and emotionally resonant aspects of the movie take place after they return home. I love the way it shows the resiliency of children in these scenarios, but it was only because of her selflessness in putting her child first in all ways that Jack was able to recover so quickly. In a way, she sacrificed her own mental health for his, which is an incredibly noble decision.

Of course, the movie wouldn't work at all if the two leads weren't as fantastic as they are. There's a reason Brie Larson is about to win the Academy Award for Best Actress. She's very raw and lacking all vanity in this role, which does so much to sell the realism of their horrific scenario. But even beyond her high standard of excellence, I almost feel like Jacob Tremblay carried the movie to another level. Most of the storytelling burden is on his tiny shoulders, whether through his narration or through his childlike naivete regarding his isolated living situation. Again, the true strength of the story and the performances occur after their escape from "room", where we see the emotional struggle of someone whose life has moved on without her and who no longer appears to have a place in the world. This is beautifully juxtaposed to her son's sense of discovery with new friends and family and pets (which made me weep) that he never thought existed before.

Basically, I'm telling you to go out and see this freaking movie! It's a beautiful character study and has so many fascinating and moving ideas about how we see our lives. There are certain movies that entertain you, and other movies that send you on a cerebral and emotional journey that lasts much longer than the film's run time. Obviously, Room is the latter. That's not to say this movie isn't entertaining, but take it from the five year-old who didn't understand a single thing about what he was seeing. You have to be willing to open your mind to appreciate what this movie is trying to tell you. It touches upon existential crises as well as psychological resilience, not to mention emotional attachments. It's a terrific film that has instantly (albeit retroactively) earned a spot on my top 5 films of 2015. If you're old enough to read this far into my review, you can definitely enjoy this movie. I give Room a solid four stars.

ROOM is rated R for language