Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

‘Room’ presents a portrait of unrelenting resilience

Official "Room The Movie" Facebook Page
(Official “Room The Movie” Facebook Page)

“Room” is a provocative exploration of the relationship between a mother and son who rely on each other to survive in the most unusual of circumstances. Based on the novel by Emma Donoghue, the film is driven by superb performances from veteran actor Brie Larson and talented youth Jacob Tremblay.

The story is told from the perspective of five-year-old Jack (Tremblay,) whose entire world consists of the small room he lives in with Ma, his mother (Larson.) Jack was born in Room two years into his mother’s imprisonment there by a man who is referred to only as “Old Nick.”

Completely unaware of the existence of the outside world, Jack is content passing his days in Room with his mother, who tries her best to simulate a normal life for him despite her severe depression and physical pain from untreated cavities. When the two manage to narrowly escape from Room, they face the sudden challenge of adjusting to a world that is unfamiliar to one and appears changed to the other.

From the start, the film presents the audience with a picture of a mother and son who live in different worlds yet share an inseparable bond. Ma is a prisoner who bears the burden of deep psychological trauma, while Jack is a carefree child who delights at small things.

Different as they may be, neither could survive without the other, and it becomes clear that Ma’s love for Jack is the only thing stopping her from being consumed by hopelessness. Unsurprisingly, the most powerful moments in the film are those that deal with the bond between the two, namely a scene in which Ma and Jack are reunited after Ma is rescued by the police.

“Room” stands out for its unique narrative elements. Much of the expository information is delivered through Jack’s simple yet revealing monologues. As youth and extreme naïveté skew his perspective, the film expects the audience to initially infer most of the truth of his situation.

The movie borrows much of its strength from the source novel, which makes sense considering that the author adapted the screenplay from the book herself. That said, although Donoghue is undoubtedly a brilliant writer, it would have been refreshing to see the story change hands as it evolved from one medium to another.

While the first half of the film relies on suspense, the second half relies on convention. Compared to the careful way the characters were crafted in the first half, the way they develop in the second half seems abrupt and haphazard. The film abandons subtlety and delicacy in the film’s latter portion as Ma’s mental health takes a sharp, melodramatic plunge, and Jack struggles to adjust to his new family and surroundings until, like magic, he’s fine. These sudden shifts feel frustrating.

“Room” is effective but not exceptional. Scenes that take place in Room lacked the nightmarish tension, unease, and feeling of claustrophobia that could have made the viewing experience vivid and unforgettable. Director Lenny Abrahamson spared the audience more discomfort than he needed to, and consequently created a less realistic portrayal of the characters’ lives than the one he could have achieved. Still, the characters are easy to empathize with and the story is extremely compelling.

“Room” is a portrait of unrelenting resilience, a testament to the idea that hope can blossom in even the most hostile environment.

Alisa Weinberg can be reached at [email protected].

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