There’s nothing more eye-roll-inducing than critics deeming a movie “a rollercoaster ride”; a phrase clearly intended to make a commercial or film poster or something. But in the case of Room, I feel like I have to go against one of my biggest critical pet peeves and say that the movie starring Brie Larson as a woman held captive in an enclosed space with her 5-year-old son, is in fact a rollercoaster. And an emotional one. SO MANY FEELS.
The film follows the story of Joy “Ma” Newsome who’s abducted and held inside her prison, an electronically-locked shed in her captor’s backyard, for seven years before she and her son finally escape. She is repeatedly raped, has health problems from being malnourished, and is slowly starting to lose her mind. She desperately tries to keep it together for the sake of her son, Jack, an active and mostly healthy boy who she raises to believe that “Room” (treated like a character rather than a place) is basically the entire world.
The film is unofficially split into two halves: our introduction to their lives inside the room, and Joy’s reintroduction back to the real world, which for Jack, is a mind-altering, world-shattering, scary experience. As we witness these two characters interacting and adapting to their surroundings, both before Room and after, the highs are high and the lows are low, running the emotional gamut for its actors and viewers. There’s anger, joy, sadness, fear, depression and everything in between. It’s as if Sadness from Inside Out was your roommate and won’t stop inviting her friends Anxiety and Remorse over for a daily meltdown. You’ll feel as if your entire family has died and you’ll walk out of the theater a mere shell of the human being you once were. Shit is heavy, man.
Let’s face it. Abduction stories like this happen in the world and it’s frightening. This film is a stark reminder of that and all the other evils in this world. My mind spun off the rails watching this harrowing, albeit fictional, story. (See? It WAS a rollercoaster, dammit! Don’t judge me!) And one of the reasons it’s so well executed is because of it’s lead. Room is anchored by Brie Larson’s poignant performance. (And the fact that she can cry on command.) We feel this rainbow of emotions because she so accurately conveys the depths of the human spirit and power of a mother’s love. Without question, it’s an Oscar-worthy performance; innately human, filled to the brim with vulnerability and realism.
It does hinge on the child, as well, and Jacob Tremblay does more than his fair share to complete the other half of this strange and powerful mother-son relationship. Seriously, kid is 9-years-old and gave an unbelievably honest performance as the little nugget Jack. (I’m 31 and overslept like 4 times this week.) Room required two remarkable performers in order to have its ultimate affect. Larson and Tremblay’s connection made it all possible, their chemistry unlike anything else I saw in 2015.
Unlike most Oscar-bait, Room isn’t based on a true story. Despite that, it remains a chilling reminder of reality, and the immoral ruin that human beings have the power to inflict upon others in society. Room is as heartbreaking as it is brilliant; it’s provocative and difficult to watch; it simultaneously destroys and wows you. Room was, by far, the most intense movie I’ve seen all year, and also the most gratifying.