Both harrowing and hopeful, Room is an emotional roller coaster that lingers long after the credits roll. It boasts one of the most original stories of the year, as well as a commanding performance from Brie Larson, and it is almost certainly a contender for the best film of 2015.
Room is a place. It’s not what you or I would call big, but for one mother (Brie Larson) and son (Jacob Tremblay), it’s their entire world. Room is home, and outside room is space. Trees are not real, seas are not real, and the things you see on TV are not real. All that is real is what exists in Room, or at least it appears that way to the five-year-old boy who has only ever known life within Room. His mother knows of the outside world, but for the past seven years she has been held against her will in the place that has come to be known as Room.
You may be expecting Room to be a story of survival in a tiny space, and in many ways it is, but there is far more to director Lenny Abrahamson’s new film than a drama set in tight quarters. In fact, only half of the film takes place in the location known as Room. As much as this story is about the time the mother and son share in Room, it’s more about the relationship between them, and how their bond is changed by their introduction into the modern world. Freedom sometimes has its drawbacks, or at least it can seem that way, and in this film audiences bear witness to two very different perspectives on the same life-changing moment. The primary perspective is that Jack, the son, and the second is of his mother. They may be together throughout the narrative, but they don’t experience their adventure in the same way, and finding a way to convey both stories in a coherent way is perhaps Room’s greatest accomplishment.
The film’s entertainment value is also boasted by its cast, led by Brie Larson, who deliver strong and compelling turns as people forced into an unimaginable situation that is far too real for many families around the world. Larson has long proved her dramatic talents, especially when one considers recent leading turns like that found in Short Term 12, but here she excels to any even more rarified air of performance craftsmanship. She is both fragile and strong, full of wit and heartache that never feels forced or coached in any way. She’s only matched in skill by her onscreen son, Jacob Tremblay, whose performance essentially makes or breaks many of the film’s most heartfelt moments. Add to this powerful mix memorable, albeit all too brief, appearances from Joan Allen and William H Macy, not to mention a very sinister Sean Bridges, and you have a veritable tour de force of performances that will not soon be forgotten.
I’ve often found that the best dramatic films of any given year, not to mention those that are frequently the most memorable, are those titles that dare to show us a side of reality most could never imagine. They peel back the curtain on the darkness or sadness of reality that the general public prefers to not think about and forces us to confront our own fears in a real and compassionate way that is anchored by brilliant performances and a strong screenplay. In 2015, Room is the best example of this, as it borrows from actual events and uses it to tell a story that goes beyond headline fodder to reveal the human side of something so traumatic words fail to describe such horror, as well as the journey to recover that follows. It’s an emotional roller coaster in the truest sense, and it’s one film from this year history will never forget.