Room: Haunting

RoomThere are films that frighten audiences. Others that lash, others that endear, others that fester and still others that cause emotional arrest. All these are true of Room, a film that handles an unspeakable tragedy in such a mundane manner as to make one wonder and ultimately succumb.

Premise: After five-year-old Jack and his mother escape from the room that has been their captivity, life afterward is more challenging than they dreamed. Result: A mesmerizing, tragic drama far from ordinary.

It is a room. In it are things, ordinary things that anyone might expect to find in any ordinary home on any ordinary street in any ordinary town. There is a small skylight to let in the dim glow of the sun. And these regular belongings appear to be owned by normal, if unkempt people, a young boy and his average mother, lounging about, sleeping, transfixed by television or mundane tasks about the kitchen.

It is not long before the horror sets in. These simple creatures are not ordinary at all. They are victims, tormented by captivity. For the boy – Jack – (Jacob Tremblay), his full life has been spent within Room, believing all things real to be fantasy. For Ma (Brie Larson), life was lived without; she survives, barely, within Room. But the life after escape proves more challenging than ever expected, even with family like Nancy (Joan Allen) and Robert (William H. Macy) to help them.

Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay star in "Room." (Ruth Hurl/Element Pictures)

Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay star in “Room.” (Ruth Hurl/Element Pictures)

Director Lenny Abrahamson’s Room is a brilliant tale of trauma. It is slow by design, because what has happened to this young woman has happened over seven years, not hours of days or weeks but years, swallowed by a nightmare within which she truly dwells.  Her frustration and anguish are palpable, her misery as inextricably linked to her as the flesh to her bones.

Room explores strength and anguish as characters onto themselves. When confronted with a reality as horrific as that which confronts our characters, how do we survive? How do we move on? How do we hope to approximate normal, when the very nature of who we now are makes normalcy impossible. These questions and more the film attempts to explain, fully understanding that it is each observer who will be the only one capable of any answers.

The performances are stirring. Larson, always incredible, reaches new heights of nuance and passion. Her pain is palpable and unforgettable. Tremblay is one with his character, wholly believable as a young child confronted with quite literally a whole new world he never knew. He is more real than could have been expected. Allen is perfect in her delivery, also as expected, but serves not simply as a character, but our surrogate, as we view this tragedy through her eyes and suffer with her.

In the end, Room is brilliant. Its madness is delivered through the haze of ordinary life, delivering much greater horror than we could have imagined. And by the use of poignant repetition at just the right moments, audiences will have no choice but to succumb.

Rating: 8 – An expensive red wine and juicy steak

One Response to “Room: Haunting”

  1. Fine review of a compelling film. I was fortunate to have seen this film at The Twin Cities Film Festival in MInneaoplis in Early October. At the time, I stated in my rveiew that Brie Larson was more than a solid bet to win an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of a woman, a mother, and a victim.

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