The crime of kidnapping and extended captivity is well known through media exposure that sensationalises the psychological horrors of confinement in claustrophobic spaces. The dependency of some victims on an abusive captor or prison is just one of the many strange twists found in captivity stories. But Room (2015) is different because it is narrated through the eyes of five-year old Jack who was born in a fortified shed with only a small overhead skylight visually connected to what is outside his world called Room.
Jack’s mother was abducted at seventeen and has been a captive for seven years, raising Jack as best she can in a co-dependent relationship that shines beautifully in their small prison. When tormentor Nick loses his job she knows he will not keep them alive, and that’s when the slow-paced narrative opens predictably towards a fast world full of frighteningly wonderful sights and sounds and feelings expressed through the naivety of a newborn five-year old.
This film would not work without the emotionally intelligent acting of Jacob Tremblay as Jack. Being almost ten and convincingly presenting as half his age is nothing short of remarkable. He describes his new world through wide eyes and lyrical words that capture the exploding space into which he is thrust, and he alone holds this film together.
As Ma, Brie Larson’s acting fixates on maternal dynamics at the cost of a convincing portrayal of captivity trauma. The scene where Jack and Ma re-visit Room after Nick is caught has all the nonchalance of strolling through a museum, as the story winds down from the highs of a taut psychological thriller to a modest melodrama. It is after all a film that strives for insight, not entertainment, while remaining true to the book upon which it is based. It does this thoughtfully in the first half, but slowly loses focus as it drifts aimlessly towards the end.
Director: Lenny Abrahamsson
Stars: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Sean Bridgers