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Laramie Movie Scope: Room

Imprisonment, escape, freedom and then what?

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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December 1, 2015 -- This is different than the usual imprisonment and escape story, because it is told from the viewpoint of a five-year-old child (and narrated by him). Presenting the world from a child's perspective is not an easy thing to do, but if it is done right, as it is here, it opens up a whole new way of looking at the world.

This is a story of a teenage girl (played by Brie Larson) kidnapped, raped and held as a sexual slave in a 10-foot by 10-foot shed with only a single skylight in the ceiling to let in light. She has been held captive for seven years, but five years ago, she gave birth to a son, Jack (Jacob Tremblay) who is the light of her life. She has managed to insulate Jack from the horrors of her existence by keeping him separated from their captor, Old Nick (Sean Bridgers of “Trumbo”) and by spinning rich fantasies about the nature of the universe.

To Jack, this small room is everything. He doesn't know that anything exists outside their prison, so he is happy in the room, which is referred to not as “a room” or “the room,” but simply “Room,” his entire universe. His mother keeps it that way as long as she can. Old Nick, who comes to Room often to deliver supplies and to have sex with Jack's mother, is getting more curious about Jack, despite her attempts to keep them apart. She decides it is time for another escape attempt.

Years before, she had tried to ambush Old Nick when he came in the heavy steel door, but failed, and was injured in the process. This time, she tries a different idea, having Jack fake and illness, so Old Nick will take Jack to a hospital, where he can slip a note to doctors about his mother's imprisonment. The ruse doesn't work, but it leads to an even more desperate ruse and escape.

It turns out that Jack is a real hero. He finally gets to see the world as it really is, huge, bright and scary, with so many people. Reunited with his mother, whose name is Joy Newsome (a name Jack could not recall when the police asked him) the two move to Jack's grandmother's house, where Joy grew up. Jack's grandmother, Nancy Newsome (Joan Allen of “The Upside of Anger”) struggles to adapt to her daughter's mental state. Jack is overwhelmed trying to deal with the much larger world and all these people.

Jack is withdrawn and clings to his mother. Joy is dealing with anger, sorrow and depression over those seven years ripped out of her life. After dreaming of freedom for so long, it turns out that freedom doesn't instantly translate into happiness. Joy is also dealing with the fact that her mother has divorced and remarried during her captivity. Her father, Robert (William H. Macy of “The Lincoln Lawyer”) has moved to a distant city and he can't bear to look at his own grandchild, the product of rape and abuse.

The only person in the house who seems calm about this new situation is Joy's stepfather, Leo (Tom McCamus) perhaps because he is not burdened with all the trauma that the others have gone through. Leo doesn't force anything and he doesn't confront anyone or demand anything. He wisely and patiently lets the others come to him in their own time, and then he connects with them. There is a very nice scene between Leo and Jack over breakfast which demonstrates Leo's calm, patience, and people skills.

Half this movie takes place in Room, but the second half of the film is about the healing process. It is about Joy, Jack and Nancy (Jack's grandmother) all trying to adjust to their new reality. This also gives the audience a chance to heal from the trauma endured by Joy and Jack in this film. The horror of kidnapping, rape and imprisonment is lessened for the audience because we experience the story through Jack's eyes, and he never realizes the full extent of the horror his mother went through during her captivity.

This is not a perfect film, but it is very close to that. The cinematography by Danny Cohen (“Les Misérables”) and the production design by Ethan Tobman captures both the claustrophobia of “Room” and the expansiveness of Jack's imaginary universe. A small camera and an ingenious expandable Room set was reportedly used to film in the cramped space.

The performances of Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay are tremendous. The story, based on the novel, “Room,” by Emma Donoghue (who also wrote the screenplay) is loosely based on true stories. It is a great, original, story and very compelling. The film is also expertly directed by Lenny Abrahamson (“Frank”) who does a great job of showing us the world through the eyes of a child. This is one of the year's best films. It rates an A.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2015 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)