Director: Lenny Abrahamson
Screenplay: Emma Donoghue
Starring: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen,
At the age of 17, Joy Newsome (also known as ‘Ma’) was abducted has been held captive in ‘Room’ for seven years. Her five year old son, Jack, narrates the story and doesn’t know or understand that there is life outside Room. The days are routine and dull, despite Ma’s attempts to keep things light-hearted for Jack – they do yoga, exercise, do crafts and play together, and teaches him to read and use his imagination to create a whole world in Room, but the monotony and their prisoner status wears Ma down. After coming up with a plan that involves Jack playing dead so that Old Nick will dispose of the body, Jack escapes and manages to convey to police that where Ma is located. She is rescued and after a brief stay in hospital they return to Ma’s childhood home. However, adjusting back to life at home is difficult for Ma, whose parents separated while she was away. Jack also struggles to understand the world around him, and why people do and say the things they do. As he slowly adapts to living in a newer, bigger home with other people, Ma slowly slips into a depression, unhappy and unsure of herself and her skills as a mother, and an attempt to commit suicide severely rattles Jack and his grandparents, making them realise Ma’s happiness at being out of Room is marred by her post traumatic stress from the experience of being held captive and sexually abused for years.
Why it might win Best Picture
This film really stands apart from the big-budget nominees. It’s quiet but beautifully character-driven, and Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay are completely believable as mother and son trapped in a 10 foot by 10 foot shed (why Tremblay wasn’t nominated for Best Actor is a mystery to me). The real beauty of the story is the theme of love transcending the physical boundaries around Ma and Jack, and the innocent wonder of a child quite literally discovering the world for the first time. The film is touching and bittersweet, and a faithful (if a little condensed) version of the book, thanks to the screenplay being written by the book’s author, Emma Donoghue. Its subtlety is its strong suit – the emotion and tension is told through Jack’s eyes and words, giving the story a simplicity and gentleness that doesn’t undercut the enormity and seriousness of Ma and Jack’s situation. This has been one of my favourites of the nominees and I hope that voters recognise the film’s quiet depth and gripping story.
Why it might not win Best Picture
If you’ve read the book (which I have), you’ll recognise from the outset that the film is condensed down quite a bit. Totally normal for a book-to-film adaptation, but in this instance, I felt the film wasn’t as profound as the book. Reading the book, which is told through Jack’s eyes, the story is quite riveting and the detail goes all the way into the minutia of Ma and Jack’s days. The film loses a bit of this in its adaptation – the day after day monotony juxtaposed with Jack’s wonder and curiosity is present in the film, but not as detailed or sweetly drawn out as it is in the novel. This left me feeling as though the film didn’t reach me as profoundly as the novel did. While the pacing of the film, the acting and the screenplay were all really great, I still felt as though it was missing a little something, a little more emotion. This feeling makes me wonder if other viewers and voters will feel this as well, and withhold their vote for Room as a result.
Have you seen Room? I’d love to know what you think!
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