Tonight I had the opportunity to watch the third of eight Best Picture Nominated Films. Although I had intended to select Brooklyn for movie night, it wasn’t available. So I came home with Room. I admit I was a bit apprehensive about watching this movie, being familiar with the premise. But I didn’t want to back down from watching any of this year’s nominated films. I’m glad I surrendered to the moment, and to the movie.
Room stars Brie Latson, Jacob Tremblay, Sean Bridgers, Joan Allen, Tom McCamus and William H Macy. This drama, based on the best selling novel Room by Emma Donoghue, was directed by Lenny Abrahamson. It is rated R for language and has a run time of 1 hour and 58 minutes.
Room was nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actress, for Brie Larson. She won in that category.
Joy (Larson) is Ma to her five year old son, Jack (Tremblay). She does her best to protect him, nourish him, and educate him, reading him stories and playing games with him. They watch tv together, and sleep cuddled together at night. Jack and Ma exercise daily, cook together and observe a schedule.
Jack is a bright and imaginative boy, articulate and curious. Their lives are familiar, in many ways. Except that life unfolds, daily, in an 11×11 foot room.
Joy was kidnapped when she was 17 years old, by a man she calls Old Nick (Bridgers). She has been held captive for seven years, calling the shed that she lives in Room. She tells Jack often that he saved her, by being born. She does her best to create an environment that Jack can thrive in.
But Jack is getting older, and the blurred lines between pretend and reality are creating confusion for him and desperation in Ma.
Ma plans a daring escape, dependent on a boy who has never seen beyond the skylight in the ceiling and can’t imagine that anything exists outside the walls of Room. The plans works, and Ma is reunited with her mom (Allen) and dad (Macy), bringing her little son home at last.
But the world has changed, while Brie was confined. Her parents are no longer married. Joy finds a new man named Leo (McCamus) in her mother’s life and home. And Joy’s father can’t bear to look at Jack.
For Jack, Outside is a confusing place, full of noise and bright light and Other People. His mother isn’t happy. She’s angry and sad and has Gone Days. Everyone is in a hurry and there’s not enough time. He misses Room and the safety of the familiar schedule that he and Ma followed.
For Ma and Jack, their greatest difficulty may not have been escaping from Room. It may be living in the real world.
This was a beautifully done film. I feared it would be heart wrenching to watch. But the difficult part wasn’t the life lived in Room. As horrible as that situation was, Ma created a haven there for Jack. She guarded his life, and his heart and mind. Of course, as a viewer, I wanted them to escape and I was relieved when they did.
For me, the hardest scenes to watch were those depicting the struggles that Joy had coming back into a world that had moved on without her. She grieved for the life she lost. She became angry at her family for teaching her to “be nice”, feeling that led to her kidnapping. And she felt guilt, for keeping her young son with her in Room, rather than attempting to convince Old Nick to take him to a hospital after birth. Brie Larson well deserved her Oscar for a role full of protectiveness and imagination, angst and self doubt.
It is little Jack, whom Jacob Tremblay portrays brilliantly, who is the heart of this story. I love how he inhabits his world completely, not realizing the smallness of it. His inventive language and his daily rituals are charming and heart touching. He misses his old life, while gingerly feeling his way into a much bigger reality. And in the end, he saves his mother a second time.
The deeper message is evident in this film. We all have a Room, a safe place we have created to inhabit, in the midst of the challenges we have been given. We don’t notice the smallness at first, how limiting that space is, how confining. But once we choose to leave that space, leave the Room we’ve so carefully arranged, the world opens up to receive us.
It can be scary, leaving Smallness and living in Bigness. But there is no going back, as Ma and Jack so poignantly discover at the end of the movie. What once seemed enough and safe, becomes too small to live in, fully. Like Jack, we will know when it’s time to say goodbye to Room, and hello to a world of new experiences.
If you aren’t certain which space you are currently living in, watch Room.