DVD Review: Room (2015)

By , Contributor
Room won Brie Larson a Best Actress Oscar, but just as deserving of recognition is the very young Jacob Tremblay. Room is best approached with as little prior knowledge as possible, but it's hardly a spoiler to point out that Joy Newsome (Larson) and her son Jack (Tremblay) have been held captive in a shed for seven years at the story's outset. Tremblay, all of eight years old when production commenced, delivers a truly great performance—no qualifier (i.e. "great for a kid") necessary. Room offers a intriguing story whose reach exceeds its grasp to some degree, but as an actor's showcase it's easily recommendable.

Adapted by Emma Donoghue (from her own 2010 novel), Room explores the connection between a mother and her young child, a connection that proves unbreakable even under the strangest of circumstances. Joy and Jack have been held as prisoners in a single-roomed shack. Their captor, a man called Old Nick (Sean Bridgers) whom we know very little about, provides them with only the most basic of necessities. Though he can see events and other people on their TV (okay, Old Nick goes a bit beyond bare necessities), Jack isn't aware that the outside world is "real." Fearing they'll never see the light of day (outside of their skylight, "room"'s lone source of natural light), Joy has chosen to limit Jack's knowledge of the "real world" strictly to their own immediate surroundings. 
 
ROOM dvd (285x380).jpg It's around the time that Joy begins dreaming up possible ways to break out of their prison that discussing Room's plot becomes dicey. Suffice it to say that director Lenny Abrahamson's sensitively deals with issues like symbolic rebirth, soul-crushing guilt, and the stifling effects of isolation. Alright, spoiler alert—necessary to discuss the film any further—Joy and Jack do get out of "room" and into the outside world. It's not the film's climax, but rather more like its midpoint. From that point on, Tremblay's Jack has the more interesting journey. Jack's arc involves a highly belated birth, emerging from the "womb" his mother did her best to maintain in "room." Now he's helpless and there are some intriguing interactions between he and all the new people he meets. Among these new connections: Joy's parents, each of whom reacts to their grandson's existence very differently.

Meanwhile, Larson isn't given quite as much to work with, despite her excellent work. She's portraying a woman who lost seven prime years of her life to captivity, during which she birthed a child who was the product of rape. Maybe Donoghue's novel delves further into the sense of lost time that must certainly be tearing Joy up inside, but I'm not sure it's effectively conveyed here. While Jack literally didn't know what he was missing, Joy did.

There are a few logic problems that crop up, as well. Again venturing into spoiler territory, Joy's plot to boost Jack from "room" is almost unrealistically flawless in execution. In fact, in order to swallow it one must accept Old Nick as a relatively benevolent captor. That's not to say he isn't obviously monstrous, as anyone who would kidnap and repeatedly rape a young woman would have to be. But the plan that finally breaks Joy and Jack out of "room" requires Old Nick to trust Joy to a degree that makes him look simply stupid. And maybe it would be hard for a truly stupid person to hide his crimes successfully for seven years. It's quite interesting that Old Nick, Joy, and Jack make up some weird, dysfunctional family. But in the end (or the middle, rather, as far as the narrative is concerned) some of Old Nick's actions seem inconsistent with what we know of his character.

Still, Room is one of the more original films in recent years and a showcase for two unmissable performances.

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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is music and film. As “The Other Chad,” he has written for the online magazine Blogcritics since 2008. When he’s not writing, Chaz can be found trolling jazz clubs, attempting to find somewhere to play his sax (whether anyone wants to hear…

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