When a film is adapted from a book, there is a lot of pressure from the readers about how the film will turn out. In the case of Room, the film adapted by Lenny Abrahamson and Emma Donoghue from Donoghue’s book, my expectations were pretty high when I walked into the theatre. I had read Room the week before, in only a few days, and was completely enthralled by her characters and use of language. As for the film? It didn’t disappoint.
Room is about 5 year old Jack (Jacob Tremblay), who knows only the world of Room – a small room in which he and his Ma (Brie Larson) are held captive. When they finally escape from their captor, Jack must learn to live in a world bigger than he could have ever imagined. Donoghue’s script is compelling, drawing emotion from you at will as you follow Jack and Ma through hell and back again. Abrahamson’s imagery is beautiful – Room is dark and gloomy, an expression mirrored on Ma’s haunted face as they go through their day to day, yet out in the world, the sky is bright, the windows are huge, and we are reminded of the comfort and love that Ma and Jack have been deprived of. Though Ma struggles to adjust to her old life after going through such an ordeal, Jack has such wonder and imagination about him as he explores the world for the first time, and every up and down affects us as deeply as it affects them. From Jack’s heart-stopping escape to Ma’s heartbreaking reunion with her mother, Room is totally in command of your emotions, and as we watch Jack grow and become accustomed to his new world, we come to see it through his eyes – that around the corner is always something new to explore or try, and that we should make the most of it.
Room is terrifyingly real and raw, not shying away from the shocking reality of Jack and, particularly, Ma’s situation, yet Abrahamson’s direction and narration from Jack allows us to see it through Jack’s perspective. This combines the grimness of Room with Jack’s love of both the worlds he has come to know and love, where he is from and where he is now. Jacob Tremblay’s performance is beyond that of a child actor, giving real depth to Jack’s actions and relationships, and brilliantly showcasing the way Jack grows to love the world and his new family. Brie Larson plays Ma perfectly conflicted, trying to balance putting Jack first and also her own needs through such a horrendous, difficult experience – the true struggle of motherhood. In this way, Ma feels very real; she is not perfect, she is human, and everything Ma does feels real because of the way Brie Larson inhabits her character, rather than simply portraying her.
The truth is, I read the novel version of Room first because I couldn’t wait until I was able to see the film to know what happened; the story and characters were too intriguing to me, even in the little details of the story I had heard. And, though the book was unbelievable, there was something about the film – about seeing this incredibly deep characters come to life on the screen, played to perfection, about seeing some of my favourite scenes played out, that was compelling and commanding of my utmost attention. Room fulfilled my high expectations, and delivered an emotion, fascinating and beautiful movie.