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Room – Joint Review


Release Date: 15 January 2016
Director: Lenny Abrahamson
Writer: Emma Donoghue [Novel & Screenplay]
Cast: Brie Larson – Jacob Tremblay – Sean Bridgers – Joan Allen – Tom McCamus - William H. Macy – Wendy Crewson

Posted January 12, 2016 by

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Room – Joint Review

Sedef’s Perspective:

Adapted from Emma Donoghue’s bestselling book and directed by Lenny Abrahamson, the director of Frank, one of 2014’s biggest indie hits, Room is already being talked about in a lot of critical circles. With both BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations for Brie Larson the leading actress and for the script, this is clearly a film we will be hearing about for a while to come.

While not based on one particular story, in her appendix to the book, Donoghue says she was inspired by several different cases of abduction and captivity that came to light in the United States over the last few years. What gives the story a twist is that the perspective is flipped around to that of five year old Jack which gives us a rather unique point of view, first of a horrendous event, then of the very world we live in…

Jack (Jacob Tremblay) and Ma (Brie Larson) live in Room. Room is in outer space, there is nothing outside Room. The only person who visits them is Old Nick who brings them food and Sunday Treats. Jack suspects he gets them from inside the television, by magic. Ma says things in the TV aren’t real. They are made of colours. Jack is a big boy – five years old – and one day, his Ma sits him down and tells him that there is a bit more to their life seemingly completely limited by four walls than he thinks…

Spoiler alert – this is a story of two halves. The first half is the typical story of two protagonists overcoming and obstacle (Old Nick) to attain a goal (freedom). For those who were unsure from my blurb, Ma has in fact been kidnapped by Old Nick and has been living as his captive in the converted shed for seven years. Jacob Tremblay shows amazing talent way beyond his years and perfectly complements Brie Larson as Ma who has the frailty of someone who has been a helpless captive for seven years and the strength of a mother who adores her son and is determined to do what is right by him no matter what the cost. If the film had actually ended with the two heroes finally making their way to freedom, it wouldn’t be at all out of place. We would have left the cinema quite satisfied.

That would, however, would have been a rather false positive. In real life heroes don’t always “ride off into the sunset”. Happily ever afters may well be real – but they are not as easy as the fairy tales would lead us to believe. After the escape begins the second half of the story – the “what happens next” and this is Ma and Jack’s adaptation to the real world. Having never left the shed (Room) Jack regards the world pretty much as an alien would. As for Ma, she is quick to discover that once she has her freedom, adapting to being a real person again is not as easy as one might have imagined. In fact it is this reality that makes Room such a strong story. The characters in the story don’t necessarily always make the “right” choices (think, for example, of Ma / Joy’s fathers’ reaction to Jack). Ma isn’t a “perfect” “mother lion protecting her cub”, she is a woman trying to raise a child under horrendous circumstances and she sometimes loses her way. And the combination of this powerful story and Brie Larson’s fantastic performance makes the film hit the audience in all the right places emotionally.

Room is by no means an easy watch – and given the subject matter this is the way it should be. It is a very clear and unblinking look at how human beings react in incredibly adverse circumstances. And reminds us that, even though we may lose our way from time to time and even though it may take a while, if we put our minds to it, we are capable of overcoming pretty much everything…

Written by:

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 18.55.20

Sedef Hekimgil
Essie Speaks
Full Contributor


Lestat’s Perspective:

Room’ – the book I went into with my eyes closed and the film I went into with my eyes wide open. This is not an easy story to sit through. It’s disturbing, troubling, real and divisive. The more you learn about Ma (Brie) and Jack (Tremblay), the more you wonder how things could have been different and how differently we would have reacted if we were any one of the characters in the film.

The room of the title is 5-year-old Jack’s entire world. His perception of reality is coloured by what his Ma tells him about the world and we eventually understand that she is making the best of a really bad situation.

The acting makes a film like this and of course it’s on point throughout. Not only is the young Tremblay a revelation, but so is Brie. It’s weird how she looks awfully familiar but I haven’t seen her in much. However, she is emotive and subtle and plays a legitimate version of a Strong Female Character.

The supporting cast is just as brilliant. Joan Allen as the conflicted mum is quietly brilliant but the scene-stealer in this film is William H. Macy. I can’t get over how seamlessly he switches from being a comedic actor to a dramatic one. He’s hardly in the film, but his performance in just one pivotal scene is worthy of an Oscar itself. He is truly outstanding.

The book is a strong character study, elegantly written as it ekes out the details of the horror of Jack and Ma’s reality. It’s something the film, being a visual medium can’t get away with. It tries, but when you have a spoiler-filled trailer and synopsis already out there, there’s little to maintain the element of surprise.

When I first saw the trailer my heart sank. I’m not sure if it was a studio decision or not, but a huge spoiler from the book becomes the main focus of the trailer. While it works in the film, it does take away from some of the impact of the book.

The film, in fact, suffers from the loss of several of the book’s biggest moments. It’s not the longest novel around, but even then the important beats are lost. I’m guessing Emma Donoghue knew what she was doing, but I hate that the most thought-provoking scenes from the book, the ones that kept me up after the pages had turned, weren’t deemed significant enough to make it to the screen.

The film is great; it is nigh perfect in its treatment of a sensitive issue. I’m grateful the director stayed away from sensationalism and titillation; it remains as respectful to the subject-matter as the book.

2015 seems to have proven that no matter how good an adaptation is, somehow it can’t match up to the excitement and rhythm of its originator. ‘The Martian’ film is great but doesn’t hold a candle to the Andy Weir original. ‘Room’ is far more successful as an adaptation, ticking all the boxes without looking like an actual checklist, but I would still recommend reading the book to really feel the situation of the story. Unfortunately the story of the film is too small to actually walk off with any major awards, but it’s a must-watch for everyone.

Written by:


Lestat de Lioncourt
Random Thoughts – Lestat’s Blog
Freelance Contributor


Larry’s Perspective:

Whilst not the first film to deal with abduction and imprisonment by a serial sex-abuser, Room adapted from her own novel by Emma Donoghue and directed by Lenny Abrahamson (Frank) is the first to tell the story from the perspective of a child of rape who cannot be told his reason for being. At the start, young, long-haired Jack (Jacob Tremblay) celebrates his fifth birthday in Room, the name for the garden shed in which he and his young mother, Joy Newsome (Brie Larson) are held captive. Joy puts on a show of strength for Jack, engaging him in making a cake, though when there are no candles, just the number ‘five’ scraped into icing, the kid is disconsolate. Why can’t he have candles instead on jeans on Sunday treat day? Joy explains it is what they need.

The room has a working television showing ‘Dora the Explorer’ and soap operas, a bath, a functioning stove and a toilet. There is also a mouse, which Joy frightens away. Until his fifth birthday, Jack understands that there is only space outside – only sun, clouds and inclement weather can be glimpsed through a skylight. There is a door through which comes Old Nick (Sean Bridgers) who Jack can only glimpse through the slats in his wardrobe – Joy doesn’t want Old Nick to touch him. Jack sees Old Nick down to his underpants. He counts the creaks of the mattress as Old Nick rapes his mother. He doesn’t understand but we do.

Part of the strength of Room is that we understand very quickly what the situation is. Old Nick, in reality quite a young man, can only function with a sex slave instead of a wife, but treats her as a wife nevertheless, complaining that he has lost his job. When the electricity goes off, and Jack and his mother wrap themselves in blankets and extra clothes to keep warm, Joy formulates a plan.

What happens next is both thrilling and heartbreaking. Room explores how mother and son exchange one form of imprisonment for another. We keenly feel their struggle to adjust to a re-introduction into society. The writing is brilliant, in particular as Joy, hitherto a tower of strength, is shown to break down, forced to deal with the choices that she made whilst in Room, choices that we the audience entirely forgive her for.

The film critiques the media intrusion into the lives of the victims of abuse; the narratives that are constructed for titillation, with the inference that victims brought it upon themselves. At one point, Joy complains about being brought up to be nice. Being nice allowed her to be exploited.

Although the film is about sexual abuse, it is discreetly made, with no nudity and only one scene with violence. Lenny Abrahamson is a director of immense sensitivity, evidenced by his third film, What Richard Did, about one young man who accidentally kills another. Room also has one of the best ever child performances to feature in a film. Jacob Tremblay is completely believable as Jack; his reactions, especially in the second half of the film, when he speaks in a whisper and ‘wants to give Ma his strong’ are heartbreaking. Of the supporting cast, Joan Allen gives a particularly strong performance as Jack’s grandmother, who struggles to replace Joy as the pillar in Jack’s life as her daughter spirals into depression.

Credit also goes to the production designer, Ethan Tobman, for creating Room and Grandma’s contrasting house. Room is shattering, breathtaking, heart-in-mouth cinema that illuminates the situation it describes.

Written by:

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 15.56.21

Larry Oliver
Full Contributor


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