Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Review: Room

World of Blackout Film Review

Room Poster

Cert: 15 / 118 mins / Dir. Lenny Abrahamson / Trailer
WoB Rating: 6/7

Well, it is January, so if you're going to watch a serious film, watch a. serious. film. And they don't get much more stark than Emma Donoghue's screen-adaptation of her award-winning 2010 novel about a young woman (Joy, Brie Larson) who's been abducted and kept prisoner in a lone room by a local weirdo for seven years, who plots an escape with the aid of her five year old son (Jack, Jacob Tremblay). Yeah. And if it sounds like it's going to be exhausting viewing, that's because it largely is. Room is intriguing and occasionally magnificent storytelling, but it's not the sort of movie you wander into casually, and it's all the better for that.

In terms of the film as a performance-piece, Room belongs utterly to Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay. Young Jacob's turn as 5yr old Jack is more remarkable for obvious reasons, but that doesn't take anything away from Brie's as his mother, protector and friend. The chemistry between them is absolutely breathtaking in a way I haven't seen before. Elsewhere, Joan Allen and Tom McCamus put in very respectable supporting turns (as does William H. Macy, ableit briefly), but the film's tonal-shift by that point means that it almost turns into a Channel 5 afternoon-movie. An incredibly harsh Channel 5 afternoon-movie, admittedly, but still.

While it's not an equally-timed split, the film is divided into two halves, before the escape-attempt and after it (that's not a spoiler, it's indicated by the trailer). The first of these is far more focused than the second, although that could very well be the point, thematically. That the film almost forgets which direction it seemed to be heading in perhaps reflects the characters themselves. When the story is based solely in 'room', director Lenny Abrahamson brings the claustrophobia in spades, yet always in a way which allows the script to breathe, and to impart the necessary plot-devices to the viewer. In the other half, a restless agoraphobia quickly sets in as (for Joy in particular) we find that escaping the room wasn't the end of the story, and that life outside is frustrating and mundane in equal measure; especially to someone who's forgotten what it means to live in the world.

Certain plot-mechanics of the film don't appear to be resolved (at least, not to the extent viewers would normally expect), but crucially, the story is told almost entirely from young Jack's point-of-view. The answers which aren't forthcoming for the audience are the ones which Jack, as a 5yr old boy, wouldn't get or even think to ask for. In some respects this is a stroke of genius which ensures the film's voice is always Jack's; in others it's slightly frustrating as you occasionally get the feeling you're being palmed off without an adequate explanation, in much the same way as someone would a 5yr old.

But, while Room might not be a film anyone in their right mind would 'quite fancy watching', once it's begun you won't be able to take your eyes off it...

Serious question(s) though (spoilers - highlight to read)
1) Although Old Nick makes Joy face the wall when he's leaving the room, we hear that the entry/exit key-code has four digits (three of those very close together on the keypad, in fact). Since she's left alone for around twenty hours a day, Why hasn't Joy tried to systematically break the code? Even if Old Nick changes it regularly, surely she'd have hit lucky in the seven years of her being there?
2) Is the wardrobe bolted to the wall? Because anyone in their right mind would have walked it into the middle of the room and climbed on top to smash out the skylight, surely?

I only ask because the film doesn't address those points at all, although I don't know if the novel does. As referenced above, it's possible that Joy tried several escapes before Jack was born, but since the story's being told through his eyes, we wouldn't know about it since he doesn't. Jack's a very bright kid though, wouldn't he at least have had the idea, whether he's institutionalised or not? If only out of curiosity rather than a desperation to escape?

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
2013's Prisoners or maybe even Locke (not for content, but narrative teasing and overall acting).

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
The cinema will certainly add to the atmosphere, but the film will still be as powerful if you watch it at home.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
It does.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
Awards-worthy, yes.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
No, because this definitely won't be for everybody.

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There isn't.

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: Room stars Brie Larson, who appeared in Trainwreck alongside Bill 'BB-8' Hader.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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