A divine cross between a tense thriller and a contemplative drama.
Movie Review #1,049


Distributed by A24.  Drama.  Running time: 1 hour, 58 minutes.  Rated R for language.  Released November 25, 2015.  Directed by Lenny Abrahamson.  Screenplay by Emma Donoghue.  Based on the novel by Emma Donoghue.  Starring Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Sean Briders, Joan Allen, and William H. Macy.

If only the Tommy Wiseau film “The Room” did not exist. Not only because it’s universally agreed to be one of the worst films ever made, but also because it’s easy to confuse that film with Lenny Abrahamson’s “Room”, thanks to the similarities of the titles. And unlike Wiseau’s 2003 film, Abrahamson’s “Room” is one of the most outstanding films of last year, and one of the greatest films of the decade.

I love the title “Room”. It’s simple. Four letters that speak volumes. The title succinctly depicts the story on a concrete, literal level as well as a more abstract, emotional level. You don’t realize just how much you appreciate that one word as an encapsulation of the film, until you’ve actually seen the film. And I strongly encourage you all to do so.

“Room” is a divine cross between a tense thriller and a contemplative drama. Brie Larson plays a single mother who has raised her son Jack (Jacob Tremblay) inside one room for all five years of his life. Ma brings Jack up as if they are the only two people in the world, as if Room is the world. But at five years old, she decides, he is old enough to know the truth about why he has spent his whole life in Room, and old enough that he and Ma can escape to the outside world.

Indeed the sight of mother and child finally escaping to the world beyond Room is liberating, but it also adds an element of uncertainty to the film. It’s tough to say that things will only improve after they’ve left Room, and that’s why their escape is seen only forty minutes into the film. In fact, nothing seems to get better. Ma can’t shake away the traumatic experiences she has endured daily for her five years in Room, and Jack has grown too attached to Room to simply up and leave it after five years. What’s worse, the two of them are losing the bond with each other that they shared every day they spent in Room.

If there is any film that “Room” did remind me of, it’s “Trainwreck”, simply because I recall Brie Larson’s performance in that movie too. I thought she did really well as a supporting character in that film, but her lead in “Room” leads you nearly to forget that she’s the same actress. Much like Emma Donoghue’s screenplay, an adaptation of her 2010 novel, Brie’s performance turns one of the most bizarre plots and settings into something that feels engaging and real.

For all the times I’ve heard people complain about the declining quality of movies, it boggles my mind that only a small audience will actually notice an extraordinary work of originality spiraling toward their faces like a frying pan. “Room” has been out since early November, and started expanding to a wide release in early January. Yet it hasn’t even broken $10 million yet. If there’s any film that doesn’t deserve that kind of nominal sum, it’s this one. If atypicality is perfection (and it certainly is a factor), then “Room” is astonishingly perfect. The number of movies I’ve seen in my life so far floors me; it’s more than likely somewhere around 1,500, and it might be even larger than that. But it floors me more that “Room” is so beautifully original, that I struggle to recall a film that’s even remotely similar.


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