Room (2015, written by Emma Donoghue)
[No. 2 of 52 in #52FilmsByWomen]
A story sometimes becomes much more interesting when told from the perspective of a child. Or more generally, from the perspective of a person whose mental state is different from ours. Seeing things from a different point of view makes us think a little harder about things that we normally take for granted. Sometimes it makes us understand things a little better. Incidentally that’s how science occasionally works.
I think I experienced Room in the best way possible – by going in completely cold. I went into the cinema without watching any trailers, or reading any synopsis of the movie. The movie opens on Jack’s fifth birthday, and we hear him narrate in his fantastical imagination how he burst open from his mother’s womb into the world.
Since I didn’t know anything about the movie going in, I had no idea what the `room’ was. Though it was pretty clear right at the beginning that they spend their entire lives enclosed within this small space. They sleep, eat, cook and clean in this room.
While everything we see was from the child’s perspective, my adult mind very quickly pieced together the information we get from the child’s view and began to work out what the room really was. It’s not a spoiler but I won’t say it in case anyone reading this wants to go in cold like me.
The strength of this movie lies in the bond between the mother and the boy. Brie Larson gave an amazing performance as the mother struggling to raise her son within an enclosed space. How do you teach a boy things that he’s never seen or experienced before? How do you make him understand how the world works? Perhaps anyone who’s familiar with Larson’s previous work woulnd’t be surprised by her great performance. She is known for playing roles in emotionally weighty indie films, such as Short Term 12, another great movie.
Perhaps even more impressive is 9-year-old Jacob Tremblay’s performance as Jack. Although technically Larson recieves top billing, it was Tremblay who carried almost the entire movie. Especially since this story was entirely told from the boy’s perspective. There are even huge scenes where Larson wasn’t even involved, and it all hangs on him completely. And it was convincing. Many things could have gone wrong with a child actor, but Jacob Trembley did an amazing job.
Precisely because we see this movie from a child’s perspective, scenes that typically would have been grim and uncomfortable turned out to be baffling, sometimes even exciting. Interestingly the opposite could happen. There are scenes that our adult minds would understand to be something happy or positive, but it was completely horrifying to an uncomprehending child.
All these choices made Room an interesting experience. It tackles a subject matter that hasn’t really been done in movies yet, which by itself is interesting even without having to see it from a child’s perspective.