Trigger Warning(s): Rape (Implied/ Off-Screen) and Suicide Attempt
Characters & Story (with Commentary)
7 years ago when Joy (Brie Larson) was 17, she was coaxed by Old Nick (Sean Bridgers) into his garden shed. Since then, he has repeatedly raped and held her captive. Together they even produced a son named Jack (Jacob Tremblay). Who, around his 5th birthday, becomes perhaps their only hope to escape.
An act which he succeeds in, but then comes the readjustment to living outside the room. Jack has to adapt to being around people, having more than 4 walls and a sunroof as his world, and Joy has to deal with PTSD. Something her parents Nancy (Joan Allen), and Robert (William H. Macy) try to do, alongside Nancy’s new husband Leo (Tom McCamus), but while Jack comes around there are a lot of scars in Joy’s head. Of which, by the movie’s end, she hasn’t overcome, per se, but she is definitely working through.
To begin, we have to talk about Tremblay. Most child actors, or actors under 18 in general, often seem out of place when in a situation where they are playing off an adult, and it isn’t for laughs. However, Tremblay is different. Arguably, as much as Larson is the lead, Tremblay is the one who pushes things from being sad to being heartbreaking. Which I don’t think it is simply because you are seeing a child go through all this. To me, Tremblay seemingly built up the type of relationship with Larson where he picks up on her cues, and knows how to tap into that darkness of what if his own mother was going through what Joy was. Leading to moments where you find yourself crying for him when he finds Joy laying on the floor, just as much as when he has a sweet moment with his grandmother Nancy and goes from whispering all his answers to his mom to saying he loves her.
Which isn’t to downplay Larson’s role at all. Like in Short Term 12, and many of her films, you see that she is the type of actor who knows how to give herself over not to just the audience, but her co-stars as well. For it honestly doesn’t feel like, to me, she is just in it to show how talented she is but, especially in the case of Tremblay, she lends herself to those around her so they can shine as well. Something necessary in this film for everything is built around her and Jack. We have to connect with them, want to invest in them and, despite the trailer revealing they get out, believe they can find freedom and happiness. Something which, in the beginning, you almost think might have been a dream of Joy’s vs. reality. Then, when they do get out, still you are investing your emotions for we are witnessing a young woman whose youth was stolen. She didn’t finish High School because of Old Nick, got pregnant because of him, and was raped and trapped for 7 years. Which, both through wild actions like attempting suicide, to just having her character look mentally exhausted, Larson conveys in a multitude of ways as her PTSD goes from manageable to self-destructive.
Perhaps one of the few major issues for me is that we never got to know the ultimate fate of Old Nick. He does get arrested, but whether he goes to jail, or something bad happens to him, isn’t revealed.
On The Fence
A part of me wished, despite the 2-hour length, we could have gotten to see not just Jack get acclimated to life outside the room, but Joy get re-acclimated to life outside the room. For, once she gets out, pretty much she becomes housebound due to the press, and then she slowly goes into a depression. One which she goes into the hospital for, and exits before the end of the movie, but with how much time and emotion you invest into her, I must admit I was hoping for some sort of knowledge on what she did to catch up on life.
Though Nancy addresses the struggle she had with losing a daughter, I did sort of wish they went deeper into Joy and her parent’s relationship, and maybe even addressed why her parents divorced? Plus, with Robert having a serious issue with having a grandson born of rape, there laid another topic of interest which unfortunately wasn’t delved into.
This is the type of film that between the format, my writing style, or just my writing abilities, I could probably never do it justice. This film hit me hard. Be it seeing a child suffer, the talent of Larson and Tremblay, or just excellent writing, in general, it had me more emotionally connected than perhaps any movie of recent memory. I mean, I was crying to the point of snot and getting choked up, I giggled as Jack spoke of his discoveries of the world, and had moments when I couldn’t help but smile due to either mother and son getting freedom or, after being aloof towards her, Jack saying “I love you” to his grandma.
Which is why this is being labeled “Worth Seeing” for this isn’t like most movies where, arguably, it is all about entertainment and if you feel moved that is a bonus. This film, Room, doesn’t violently grab hold of you but is like that one consistent stranger you see throughout the week who never smiles. You question what is wrong, what has happened, and upon daring to ask you are drawn in. Making every victory a cause of celebration, and every bad moment a time when only a hug and sobbing can relieve any pain or pressure. That is what this film is. A true statement that the film industry may still have some hope, if only the right production, and the right cast, are given what they need to assemble.