Room is triumphant, shocking and compelling all at the same time.
I watch a lot of movies.
Last year I watched 265 and very few of them stuck with me in the manner which Room has. Seriously, I had trouble sleeping last night because I couldn’t get it out of my head. It’s a story of an outrageous situation that becomes a tale of desperate survival pitting a young mother and her five year old son against isolation, solitude and abuse. I can’t say enough about this movie, it’s moving and terrifying while at the same time maintaining it’s realism.
Room is the story of Joy Newsome (Brie Larson), a twenty four year old woman who has been held captive in an isolated, soundproofed, and apparently very secure building for seven years. She was kidnapped by a man at the age of seventeen and has been his sexual prisoner in this hell ever since. During her captivity, she becomes pregnant by her captor who is known only as “Old Nick” and gives birth to a son she names Jack (played amazingly by newcomer Jacob Tremblay). The two live in this area together, receiving weekly provisions from Old Nick with Joy trying as hard as she can to provide some sort of life for her son all while trying to maintain her sanity.
When the story begins, Jack has just turned five and we are treated to a look into the world that the boy sees in this small confine that is referred to only as Room. Everything has been named and is treated as it’s own person. There is Chair 1 and Chair 2, Toilet, Skylight, and even a “snake” that the two have constructed out of eggshells. Joy has made sure that her son receives the best life possible, teaching him to read and protecting him from their bleak reality by telling him that the outside world is just space and that the true world exists only within Room.
Old Nick has secured the two with a reinforced steel door only accessible via coded lock which only he knows the code to, it is a code in/ code out lock. He enters nightly to rape Joy while Jack sleeps in the wardrobe next to her bed. She keeps Jack sealed away from Old Nick to protect him from their captor’s evil and goes into a rage if he attempts to make contact with him in any way. Joy has tried on several occasions to escape but has been brutally assaulted by Nick to which point she has finally succumbed to her situation and opts to protect her son.
One night, Old Nick visits and makes mention that he has been laid off from his job stating that provisions for the two will become harder and harder to come by. This realization sets the story in motion as Joy begins to construct their final escape attempt. After cutting the power to their shed in the dead of winter, Joy has Jack fake a fever in an attempt to get Nick to take him to a doctor, but Nick just states that he’ll get antibiotics for the boy. Now things have become dire and Joy’s last ditch effort is to fake her son’s death in the hopes that Old Nick will dispose of the body and Jack can escape during the transport.
Joy trains Jack to the plan for several days by rolling him up in a carpet and lying stiff to create the appearance of rigor mortis, thus bringing as much reality as possible to the situation. Joy drills him relentlessly, trying to prepare him as best as possible for the challenge that lies ahead. She sends Jack with a note and tells him to give it to the first person that he sees.
The night Old Nick arrives, he falls for the ruse and agrees to dispose of the body as hoped. In a scene that is a true heart stopper, Jack is confined in the rug in the bed of a truck and sees the outside world for the first time as he tries to remember his mother’s words to escape. After a few failed attempts, Jack jumps out at a stop sign, but is seen by Old Nick who pursues him. Luckily the two are witnessed by a man walking his dog who intervenes and Nick gives up the fight and escapes in his truck.
The police soon arrive and Jack is found in a near comatose state. He is afraid to speak to the officers, but is able to give them enough information for them to triangulate the whereabouts of Nick’s house. They are called to the property and Joy is finally released from her captivity and in an incredibly emotional scene, is reunited with Jack.
Now safe and settled in a local hospital, Jack is flooded with sights and sounds of the outside world for the first time. He has never seen the world beyond Room and this harsh reality is terrifying to the boy. Joy is finally reunited with her parents, but this new life is not the one she left. Her parents are now divorced with her mother taking a new husband named Leo and her father having moved far away. Once home, she and Jack begin their adjustment to this new world. Her father, played by William H. Macy, rebuffs Jack and refuses to even acknowledge his existence in a heartbreaking scene. This new reality forces her father to leave and presumably not come back.
The two live with Joy’s mother and Leo and try to pick up the pieces of their shattered and damaged lives. After a failed suicide attempt by Joy, Jack has to stay with his grandparents and begin to bond with them. These scenes are told in a montage type of narrative and become increasingly heartfelt as Jack lets his guard down and starts to accept and explore the new world around him. Joy returns home from her stay at the hospital and reaffirms to Jack that she will never leave him and that the two will always be together. We are treated to scenes showing the two exploring and experiencing the world around them and beginning to try and put the past behind them
Being the first place he ever knew, Jack asks Joy if the two can return to Room one last time. With a police escort, the two are taken back to the property that held them captive for so long. As they stand in front of the shed that was their prison Jack asks if he can enter which Joy allows. He asks “Is this Room?” and she replies that it is. The director now shows us the true confines of their prison with wider shots that show just how small it really is. Earlier in the film, the scenes were tighter and as such shows Room to be larger than it is, presumably seen through the eyes of a child.
All of the furnishings save for a few have been removed from the structure to be used as evidence and Jack explores the confines saying goodbye to the last few remaining items. He leaves and says one last goodbye to Room and then looks to his mother and says “Ma, say byebye to Room” and in the final scene Joy takes in Room for one last time and mouths “Goodbye Room”.
As I said earlier this movie stuck with me hard. I spent the evening putting myself in Joy’s shoes – how would I have escaped? How would I have been able to endure that hell for seven years and still successfully raise a child? I’m a parent and I think I do an ok job, but the determination that Joy shows to shelter her son is harrowing and something that Brie Larson plays amazingly. Jacob Tremblay as Jack plays the role surprisingly well for an actor of that age. He is vulnerable but at the same time curious and brave, but never unbelievable. You can’t help but feel shocked and compelled by the amazing story that is Room.