Friday, October 30
Directed by Lenny Abrahamson
1 hour 58 minutes
From A24 Pictures
William H. Macy
Adorable 5-year old Jack and his mother are being held hostage in a storage shed with only a skylight to offer a glimpse of the sky. She has been held captive for seven years and Jack has known no other life. The room comes equipped with two beds, stove, bathtub and Ma does everything possible to make life as comfortable for Jack as she can. It's not difficult for Jack because it's all he's ever known.
They are being held by a man who does not otherwise mistreat them. He comes most every night and sleeps in the same bed with Ma and then leaves in the morning. The shed is at the rear of his property.
Ma and Jack count on one another to get through the difficult times. Jack depends on his mother completely... she is obviously his entire world. Though he can be a little testy at times, basically he will do anything she asks of him. In this regard he is asked to do something seemingly impossible for a 5-year old but if he can accomplish it, at least he will be set free. I was fascinated with how the escape was played out but we won't go further here except to say that ultimately it works.
The understandable claustrophobic feel to the first third of the film was welcomed relief for this viewer to see vanish. The remaining two-thirds concerns the mother's re-entry to a world she has missed and for Jack a world he's never known. He's never seen anyone other than his mother and the captor. He's never climbed stairs. He's never seen a phone. He's never seen a dog or a cat. He's never been outdoors and there's great concern expressed regarding his health and well-being at first. I thought how the filmmakers allowed Jack's story to unfold was nothing short of amazing... also, of course, heart-tugging.
If it doesn't always go well for Jack, it doesn't for his mother even more so. They both go to live with her divorced mother, who, of course, thought her daughter was dead. Her father cannot seem to accept the child, which makes things all the more difficult, frankly, for all of them. And there are other unresolved family issues that come bursting forth. In view of some real-life headlines in the past several years on the subject of being abducted and imprisoned, the film offers a keen insight into what the after-life for a captive can really be like.
It's a joy to see the boy come to life and deal with learning so many new things, knowing an extended family, meeting a family dog, gaining a friend, playing with real toys and remaining as concerned about his mother as he's always been.
Thankfully it ends on an upbeat note, although that's not to imply there's great about-face. We realize there are still issues to contend with and always will be but the story the filmmakers wanted us to understand is concluded efficiently.
I knew very little about this film before seeing it, although I am vigilant for keeping an eye out for independent films. What I did hear was that Brie Larson, as the mother, was outstanding and Oscar buzz has been generated. All quite deserved, by the way. I also knew a young child was involved, in peril actually, and I love such stories. That was about it.
What I wasn't prepared for was the gist of the story and once I understood what was going on, I felt a jangle of emotions. I think it's fair to call Room an emotional journey. At the heart of the story is this child and if the actor playing him was mediocre or worse, most of this would have fallen apart. Luckily, that didn't happen.
Little Jacob Tremblay is a revelation, spot on in everything I could detect. What is asked of him revealed an extraordinary young boy and a gifted actor. After all these years of watching films with kids in major roles, I am still a bit perplexed at how a director gets a child to act this well. Surely someone this young is not told about every adult nuance of the story and if he is not, then it is even more extraordinary that this kind of performance can be pulled out of one so young and innocent. As a real-life parent I'm not sure I'd want my young son involved in such an endeavor. But he was... and he made the film for me.
I've never seen a Joan Allen film that I didn't like. She shows an emotional investment and an unerring sense of timing in her roles that gets my pistons firing. This strong but loving grandmother role fit her to a T.
I confess I have never heard of director Abrahamson or the few films he has directed but I will certainly pay attention to him if his steering of this film is any indication. There are so many places this could have gone wrong... with the kid, with transitions, balance, with a central point of focus, too mushy, too artificial. Well, none of that occurred. It was a stimulating piece of work.
A salient musical score by Stephen Rennick has captured the sense of every emotion. There were moments I was swept away by the grandeur of what I was hearing. I might have to see if it's available to purchase.
Here you go if you are taken with a story of a mother's love for her child and vice-versa. I found it to be a lovely surprise, beautifully served to us, a wide-eyed emotional journey. There is no buyer's remorse.
Next posting (tomorrow):
Another movie review