Thursday, December 31, 2015

Mom Makes "Room" Home (no spoiler review)

Room – the only home that five-year-old Jack (Jacob Tremblay) has ever known. We see it from Jack’s eyes as he introduces us to everything in the 10X10 box: bed, chair 1, chair 2, toilet, bath…wardrobe. Room and mom (Brie Larson) are this little dude’s whole world.

As a mother myself, I see more. I see a mother who is doing her best to give her boy a happy, healthy life.  She encourages his creativity with songs, drawings, and homemade toys. She gives him her undivided attention. Their daily ritual includes brushing their teeth (she counts to make sure it is long enough), exercising (she makes a game of “running track” across the little room), cooking, and cleaning together.  

Though there doesn’t appear to be anyone they have to account to, mom has set down certain rules: rules on how much TV is allowed (she explains that she was turning into a TV watching zombie before Jack came to rescue her), and rules for bed time.  Important rules.  We soon find that the bedtime rules are vital for Jack’s protection. Jack must be quietly asleep in wardrobe when mom’s unwelcome visitor arrives. Through the crack in the door, we get glimpses of that visitor through Jack’s curious eyes.  Some nights Jack falls asleep counting the squeaks in the bed. His breathing in the wardrobe seems thunderous. The tension is palpable.

But as Jack grows more curious and protective of his mother, it becomes clear that they are in peril. Mom concocts a dangerous plan to get them out of room. (I have excluded the usual link to the trailer to retain the suspense – though I felt considerable tension even on my second viewing.)

What really struck me is how real it feels. The room seems lived in. We get an intimate look at their lives. Jack isn’t the usual precocious Disney child.  Writer Emma Donoghue is obviously someone who understands kids and mothers. The boy goes from rambunctious play to a defiant tantrum.  He has meltdowns like a real kid. We see the effect of the night visits on his mother as she withdraws into herself and snaps at the boy when he gets on her last nerve. But she forces herself out of her depression when her child needs her to be attentive.

The acting is outstanding, heart-wrenchingly genuine. In an interview, the award winning actress Brie Larson spoke about her process. After in-depth research with abduction survival therapists, she isolated herself from any human communication and subsisted on a meager diet for six months. She shared how she became depressed, but then had a breakthrough moment when she recalled a childhood memory of living in a one room studio with her mom and sister. The girls only had two toys each, but it was the best time of her life because their creative mom made everything a game and gave them undivided attention. She brought that experience to the role.  Watching “Room” brought back my own memories of my mom encouraging my creativity with arts and crafts when I was four. It didn't matter how little money we had, we were always encouraged to follow our creative pursuits. That love of creativity got me through some hard, lonely years. Needless to say, I cried. Grateful to my mom for being present. Sad for all the families today that don't have the time or money to build that kind of foundation.

One of the reasons Abrahamson chose Brie Larson was because of her warmth. He knew that she could bond with 7 year old Jacob.  The authenticity of their connection makes the suspense all the more devastating.

 Emma Donoghue
“Room” is a highly moving, thrilling adaptation of the novel by Emma Donoghue. Director Lenny Abrahamson stayed true to the source (as promised) by working closely with Donoghue on the script. What is truly admirable (and what makes it a must-see Reel Inspiration film) is how Donoghue and Abrahamson succeed in making the victims heroes, while not glorifying their captor. “Room” was a collaborative effort with the director, writer, cast, and crew all working for a common vision – to make a life affirming story showing the importance and resilience of the mother-son bond.  

Movie blessings!
Jana Segal

Oscar news: "Room" was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director Lenny Abrahamson, Best Adaptation Emma Donoghue, and Best Actress Brie Larson.

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