It is not until you walk out of the theatre,that director Lenny Abrahamson’s “Room” crumples you into tears. I can’t say that I have seen a film that honors motherhood like this one does. An imprisoned 17 year-old girl sacrifices her grief in losing the world to raise her son in a sound- proofed shed. Held for seven years in a windowless but sky-lighted room 10′ by 10′ , she manages to keep her child safe and occupied. When he is five , she comes up with a plan to free them both.
I have not read Emma Donoghue’s novel, but I think her script shows the psychology of captivity in a unique way. Unlike the war film “Unbroken”, Brie Larson as Joy must create a reality that does not entail loss. The film begins with”once upon a time” as Jack shows us his world :Good morning lamp,good morning rug, good morning chair number two . He remarks on his ma’s toothache. She responds “Mind over matter”. He jokes and affirms with, “If you don’t mind,it doesn’t matter.” The two show their bonding as they exercise like frogs,bathe, break eggs to bake a cake and complete art projects. Much of the time they discuss what is real. The television is flat and Dora, the Explorer is not real. Because, “Where would they all fit?” ,Jack reasons.
Jacob Tremblay is Jack and his performance is nuanced and arresting. His temper,his mouse feedings, his imagination brings normalcy to Joy. When he asks about “old Nick”, Joy’s nightly visitor, she tells Jack only that ” he is not our friend.” Jack is to stay in the slatted closet when old Nick brings food or stays the night. One of the most harrowing scenes is when Jack leaves the closet and steps over Old Nick’s discarded shoes. The captor is awakened and a fight ensues with Joy screaming “Don’t touch him!” His strangle hold on Joy and his “Don’t forget where you got him” leaves hysterical apologies from Jack. A plan is hatched that rests on the savvy of a five -year -old.
The second half of the film maybe the most psychologically tasking. Joy’s mother and father have divorced. As Joan Allen so aptly says this crime has changed the lives of all of them. Wm. Macy loses his daughter when he can not accept Jack,who became Joy’s salvation. A live-media interview throws Joy. Insensitive questions hinder Joy re-entering the world. For awhile, she focuses on what she has lost. Allen, as her mother, shows Joy the way. The return to the room is closure for both Jack, who sees the shed as home,and for Joy,who can accept what she made real for her son. I was shaken by the reminder of what motherly love can do.