Room : A Film Review

Director. Lenny Abrahamson. Canada and Ireland Production.
Cert. 15. 1hr 58mins.
Brie Larson as Joy “Ma” Newsome, Jacob Tremblay as Jack Newsome
Joan Allen as Nancy Newsome, William H. Macy as Robert Newsome
Sean Bridgers as Old Nick, Megan Park as Laura
Cas Anvar as Dr. Mittal, Amanda Brugel as Officer Parker
Joe Pingue as Officer Grabowski, Tom McCamus as Leo
Wendy Crewson as Talk Show Host. From the cast list you get the impression, correctly, this movie involves more than the two principals though they both excell and exceed all else about them. Jacob Trembly, is outstanding an intuitive as kids can be in depicting the central persona and how he has put himself in the character is for later enquirer to find out. In final credits after long thanks etc the names Christina and Jacob Tremblay are credited. This is appreciative of the real mother and son relationship on which film making is entrusted.
Suspended beliefs.                                                                                                                                                                                            This film adaption of the award winning best selling Emma Donaghue novel of the same name is a traumatic retelling of the narrative which has some linearity with actual abduction and hostage situations.image  Those of lone kidnap victims living long periods in isolation.  Some of mother and child situations, of several separated but confined in close proximity to each other.  Each and every one placed in a small environment year on year becoming part and element of the space they occupy.  Some carry memory and experience.  Knowledge alone is suspended and time has no authority or purpose as incarceration means endless endured living and existence. We are not in Ireland but everytown, for this, the film makers have taken us across an Ocean presumably to attract and it did, the American audience.  Fear travels.  The rewards are just lining up as this is an awesome traumatic drama by anyone’s stretch of template.
This is Room.  The noun is solitary throughout as other words tend to be. Wardrobe, Chair 1 and Chair 2.  Sink is attached to a wall.  Wall is sink wall.  Each object is a solitary item in isolation within the mind of Jack and his mother Joy played by with startling realism by Brie Larson who bears a striking resemblance to another of my favourite and compelling actresses, Marion Cottilard, for which she just this week received a deserved Golden Globe for her performance in this role. 
The story is told from around the fifth birthday, no going back to how events arose or flashback is used making this very much a time conscious movie having some element of time passing observed and carried forward.  We are soon approaching the birthday and the story is developed by director Lenny Abrahamson on the basis of the screenplay put in place by Emma Donaghue herself. This is not a case of control freakery but the authorship creating during the writing a vision of what it might make as a film.  Diligently and eloquently the nuances, the said and unsaid scenes of the depiction of a mind being manipulated into a state of acceptance of Room as being the whole of existence is virtually incomprehensible from our perspective. However it is incredibly immersive. Twelve Angry men was directed in a jury room and similarly this is using objects and spatial awareness to engulf us in Room.  The film set for half the film.
Many themes of outlier satellite themes are in the tenure of film making from Dogma themes? Captive, The Town, Misery maybe, and portals through which we may pass along a Yellow brick road or into outer space and parallel universes or as the allusion and plot device premise utilised – a copy of Alice in Wonderland happens to be one of the objects in Room.  Thoughts of escape conjured up by the mild mannered costumeir David Jones nee Bowie of this world has entered to be free.        The young Brixton Jewish lad who once made Berlin his home and declared the world Low.  Lazarus arisen. Isolation. In Bowie’s words “Look up here I’m in heaven.  I can’t be seen.” It’s as if this is a place outside of the world, a transition space knowing and eating into the psyche of Joy who sees no way out. So many depictions yet none prepare you for what you will see or be absorbed in with this film which is instantly unsettling and grows adding weight to trauma heartfelt and witnessed.  To say it is claustrophobic merely scratches at raw cliche.  
Room is a habitat of ten feet by ten feet which is usually the dimensions of a prison cell and it is within a shed.  
Silence observed
Lined with cork tiles,acoustic lined it is a forbidden tomb like abode.  Nature enters through a skylight as seasons come and go.  Night comes after day and electricity is feed into Room and captor ‘Old Nick’ provides pictures through a TV set envisioning a two dimensional external world.  A world simply of people who are flat and have coloured faces.
The captor is a loner, played by Sean Bridgers, with a psychotic control power urge which he initially inflicts on Amy by kidnapping her and fathering, as meanings extrapolate, Jack. He enters Room frequently when Jack is at rest, most of the time.                    As Jacks birthday appears he asks mum for a present and is markedly confused he does not get the meaning of need and want.  Amy has objectives to keep both sane and her own personality is bearing down on her with questions of how to manage the situation when the captor continually abuses her and increasingly becomes less predictable and habitual.

Needs must when the devil drives and Amy begins to determine ways of solving the problem.
There is a plot constructed by Joy and she calls on Jack to make believe once she has become more open about true existence.  In the course of living in Room Amy is required to develop the concept of the outside world which she does painfully and struggles as Jack does to create an imaged but believable world.  One which Jack can trust is not another lie given all before will become a lie. This is a transition which is a form of enlightenment.  Concepts of good and multiple universes come into play.  The stars are visible in the skylight but the near world isn’t. To boldly go where etc. becomes a reality and a necessity.

How they attempt to escape this is alluded to in trailers and the book is known to have outcome.  We come to the narrative expecting all sorts of possible outcomes all which involve mental and physical brutalised people. The deadliest harm and sick frequently encountered plots and reality themes are distinctly carried in the narrative with jeopardy ever present and lingering as we empathise from a totally inexperienced point of view of the flesh and blood people whose ‘lives’ we, during the film have become wrapped up in.

For the second half of the film this experience becomes reversed and unsettling.  The trauma continues as the world enters in.  To their lives and width of space expands and multiples of universes are presented.  How will their previously controlled, manipulated minds cope?  Amys mind has been also been shut away and her ‘rebirth’ is agonising and presents questions arising from the people she left behind and whose life’s have themselves inevitably changed.  Changing because of despite of her incarceration? This new boy a child Jack they never knew is in the new world.image
Love, freedom, perseverance
Parents, William H Macy plays Joy’s father now grandfather with ragged tousled grimacing being his reactive state and Joan Allen plays his estranged wife and Mum wonderfully, living with a new partner Tom McCamus as Leo. Macy seems to play troubled Mr Normal a lot of the time and though this is an every town movie successful crossing the Atlantic to Toronto of all places it is duty bound to throw up an Everyman to give the plot and the reader guidance.  Remarkably it works extraordinarily well with a line which struck me; and it occurs from a source which could be any character, has some insightfulness though not necessarily always, so to speak a level playing field.  It is the observation – “No one lives their life like nothing happened.  This (living) is one extraordinary happening and set of events.” Or words to that effect!
Conclusion ##### 5.
Other places. Remain the same.
There is something not spiritual about the film and probably the book but it would be impossible if not implausible not to think about duality and spirit of another guidance and driven existence on the other side in consideration with this film.    It is not prescient, co-incidental, interesting, telling that David Bowie has gone on a journey from which no escape is possible or no eventuality presents but it provokes thinking along the lines that Jack is a Child who fell to Earth.  Eventually we all leave the cinema or our front rooms matterafactly with a new idea or two derived from thinking having read or seen unsettling stories light our minds for a period.  The wardrobe of the universe is beginning to unravel before our eyes and we can but gaze in wonder and be a thankful witness.  Room is in several places at once without leaving our heads.  It conveys the brutality and fragility of existence and disassembled change brought about for God knows whatever reason.  Fate and fortune, misfortune and grace are all consuming and this is a very accomplished way of exploring the journey made and happenstance of lives. 

Opening on 15 January in the United Kingdom and at
Queens Film Theatre Belfast from this Friday 15th January 2016.

Runs throughout Remainder of January until 28th at QFT.
SEE for details of times etc.
It heralds a new season of films and 2016 begins with this relatively mainstream movie in the period for awards and Queens Film Theatre as well as a plethora of Art House movies will be bringing more of these mainstream films along in the early part of the years programming. Already it plays out The Danish Girl which has been pulling in audiences and if you want to see ROOM BE SURE TO ARRIVE EARLY AND OR BOOK as I predict it will have audiences queuing up to see it. It truly is a remarkable movie and many praises should be heaped on Emma Donaghue for pulling the material all together so lucidly and engrossingly. Irish Film is in good shape as storytelling triumphs.

John Graham

13 January 2016


Remembering David Bowie also