The movie Room is an adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s 2010 novel, which itself is inspired by the real-life Fritzl case. It’s a rare instance of the fictional story actually being much less horrific than the truth: Josef Fritzl hid his daughter, Elisabeth, in a bunker below his house for 24 years. In that time, he abused her, raped her, and fathered seven children, some of whom were forced to live with their mother, having never experienced life outside the room. It’s a sickeningly intriguing story, one that had no trouble capturing the public’s interest. But Gone Girl this is not, Room is a substantially introspective film, far less interested with guessing at an explanation for this madness than it is with showing what it could have been like to live with it.
Jack (Jacob Tremblay) has just turned five at the beginning at the beginning of the movie. He has lived his entire life in one tiny room, with a heavy, electronically locking door and only a single skylight to offer a tiny glimpse of outside world. He lives with his mother (Brie Larson), who does her best to keep him healthy and clean and safe. They have never been separated, and Jack’s only other links to the rest of the world is their TV and Old Nick (Sean Bridgers), their captor who routinely visits to provide supplies and rape Ma.
A lot of the success of Room can be contributed to the sheer power and grace of the performances by Tremblay and Larson, respectively a child actor and a younger-than-me actor. Seeing the world through Jack’s eyes is a weird experience that only works because of how earnest Tremblay is in the role. And Larson does such a great job bringing out the vulnerability and rage of someone in her position – to the point where someone in the audience of the screening I saw was audibly disturbed by the movie, and possibly had to walk out.
But I should be clear that Room is not great for bringing a terrible crime to life. No, Room transcends the crime thriller genre and becomes a story about complacency and freedom, about the painfulness of change. Especially it is about the power of unconditional love, and the good and bad consequences of those feelings. Much of the movie is shot in POV or close up, director Lenny Abrahamson wants you to feel this story, and it’s hard not to. I walked out of the movie loving it for that visceral nature. But believe me, it’s smart and absolutely worthy of its heavy themes. Truly an illuminative reminder that actually it’s not that the world is as big as our imagination, but that our imaginations is only as big as the world.