Director: Lenny Abrahamson
Screenwriter: Emma Donoghue
Cast: Brie Larson, Jacob Trembley, Sean Bridgers
If you want a movie that is a perfect book-to-film adaption then this is for you. Hell, even if you don’t care about the book, it’s still for you! I’ve been so excited for Room’s release because it’s one of the most amazing books I’ve ever read and truthfully… the film did not disappoint.
Warning! This review contains spoilers!
The beginning’s a little fuzzy, there are plenty of close ups of random objects the crumbling walls of our protagonist’s room, but I think it leads perfectly into the first part of the movie. With nothing but close up shots throughout (let’s face it, the shots with both Jack and Ma in them seem like the characters are struggling to fit into the screen) everything feels so claustrophobic. It’s seems like every angle that tries to create more space is overwhelmed by the presence of a wall or an object or even an entire absence of light. This is one of the things that makes Lenny Abrahamson’s work on this movie so incredible, as his co-operation with the set designers and cinematographer all but force you to feel trapped in the room with the characters, building empathy all the while. What’s more is that the opening sequence has barely any noise at all. There’s no background music, there are no cars, not even wind; just long, silent pauses. Every sound Jack or his Ma make seems so loud as a result. Taps squeaking on and off, cereal boxes being shaken; I think the noisiest thing you hear is when Jack washes a pan. It’s eerie but, again, it only helps to develop a sense of just how isolated and alone the two characters are and it emphasised their isolation.
As the film developed however, Room moved away from this claustrophobic atmosphere as it followed child protagonist Jack from within the room to the outside world, with visions of trees, cars and houses serving as reminders of his suffering and simultaneously the optimism of his future. We see the tininess of Jack’s room in comparison and it’s just all so light. Not only that, but the score also gets increasingly loud. All of a sudden there’s so much going on, there’s the sounds of engines, bright lights, an entire street, all with the music growing louder in the background. Suddenly our senses are overwhelmed, just like we know Jack’s are. Cut to our rescue scene, and then the hospital, and we’re back to our close ups. Now we feel claustrophobic again. We’re overwhelmed by bodies invading our tiny spaces, with our beloved characters stuck in the centre. There are strange noises of which there are so many and are presented as being so loud. The movie makes you feel as overwhelmed as the child, pushing its desire to develop an empathetic connection between audience and character. What started out as intelligent shots showing us the world are now suffocating us, so much so that we quickly feel trapped again. The only wide shot we get is through their hospital window. And, seriously; whose idea was it to put a woman who hasn’t seen the outside world in seven years and a boy who hasn’t seen it ever in a room with windows for walls and a full city view? If you want to talk overwhelming then let’s talk about that!
While this was a perfect way to keep the audience wrapped up in all of the desired emotions, I’m still so glad they kept in Jack’s narration. After all, it was his story to begin with and I was so happy we got to keep his perspective. I enjoyed how they incorporated it, too. Having Jack narrate at each of the key moments in the movie (the beginning, their escape and the end) I felt like not only did we get to retain his cute and clumsy thoughts and ideas, but we also got a first-hand understanding of how it felt to be in that situation. Not as adults, as we are, but as a terrified, yet amazed, five year old boy. What the movie did so well, and perhaps even better than the book, was that it kept these moments short and sweet. I loved the book but Jack’s childish language and sentence structure takes some getting used to. If this element was to remain as strong in the movie as it is in the book, then it surely would’ve been of detriment to the final product.
What I do want to talk about though are the missing, or underrated parts of the film. Lenny Abrahamson did an excellent job of keeping in line with the book and, as mentioned before, it’s one of the most brilliant book to film adaptions I can recall seeing, but there are just a couple of questions I have. First of all; what happened to the other baby? That’s right, for those of you who didn’t read the book, Jack was not Ma’s first child. She previously gave birth to a stillborn daughter. But where was she? There are still echoes of her presence but it was something dismissed by the movie version almost entirely, with the exception being when Ma tells Old Nick he has to take Jack away she says he needs to be taken somewhere nice, “not here. I’ll feel him”. In the book we hear about how her stillborn daughter was buried in the garden and Ma could sometimes ‘feel’ her presence. The sentence still fits into the story because Ma needs a reason for Old Nick to take jack in his truck and Emma Donoghue adapted her novel and wrote the screenplay so I trust she had a good reason to make the change. However, they also diminished Jack’s attachment to ‘rug’. This was the rug on which he was born, which still has a stain from where his Ma gave birth alone at 19. So much of the story is focused on it. The rug is there when he comes into the world once and, later, when he’s taken by Old Nick into the rest of it. Saying that, the film does an excellent job of symbolising Jack’s ‘re-birth’ into the world in the sense that he forces himself out of the ruck in the back of Nick’s Van, as well as in the way all of his initial sounds when he’s first carried outside mimic the sounds you hear on a sonogram. It’s a pivotal item, crucial the plot from beginning to end, and left quite the absence in this particular adaptation.
Finally, there’s the casting. I will outright declare that I am glad they didn’t cast any world famous, appears-in-every-movie, type of actors to play the leading roles. I think it would have taken away from the drama and overwhelming uniqueness of the movie. Brie Larson was a perfect choice and she portrayed Ma beautifully; her Oscar nomination seems entirely deserved. She looked and acted just how I’d imagined and remained faithful to the character so many of us held in our minds. As for Jacob Trembley, well, I don’t know what to say. To see him execute such an emotional role was amazing and he playing Jack in such a wonderful way. Even Old Nick (who was cast a little young in my opinion) performed well – I don’t know if it was the clothes or the attitude that made me want to slap him on sight but; what more can we ask from modern villains?
In conclusion, I want to emphasise how much I loved this film. From its casting, its story and the marvellous way every scene was put together. If you haven’t seen it I suggest you do because it’s one in a million; I came out of the cinema in awe. I’ve never seen a film more true to its book or to its character’s voice in a long, long time. It was put together so perfectly I was ready to applaud them right there in the cinema.