Thursday, January 12, 2017

No 'Room' for Error

Director: Lenny Abrahamson
Cast: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen, William H. Macy, Sean Bridgers, Wendy Crewson
Released: October 16, 2015

Oscar nominations:

Best Picture - (lost to Spotlight)
Best Director - Lenny Abrahamson (lost to Alejandro Inarritu for The Revenant)
Best Actress - Brie Larson (won)
Best Adapted Screenplay - Emma Donoghue (lost to Charles Randolph and Adam McKay for The Big Short)

I should probably start out with saying that there will be spoilers, MAJOR spoilers, in this review.

I was aware of the book this movie is based on by Emma Donoghue when it was released in 2010 from reading blurbs about it in Entertainment Weekly and Marie Claire, two magazines I subscribed to at the time. I knew it was about a young woman and her five-year-old son who are being held captive in a small room (hence the title). It wasn't really the subject matter of the story that turned me off from the story, no, it was the fact that the story is told from the perspective of the five-year-old. When I read that, I was like, "I'm out!" That just did not appeal to me at all. However, while there are voiceovers from the young boy in the movie, movies are different from books in that you are not always being narrated by someone so it was much easier to take. Now maybe I'm wrong about the book and it could be wonderful, but I really do not want to read something from the perspective of a five-year-old even though this certain five-year-old is (sadly) like no other child his age.

If one went into this movie without knowing what it was about or having read the book, they might be a little confused at first about what is going on. We see a young woman, Joy (Brie Larson), celebrating her son Jack's (Jacob Tremblay) fifth birthday. Jack wakes up and goes around the small room they're in, saying hello to the different pieces of furniture and appliances. Despite living in cramped corners, they seem to be happy. We soon realize that they aren't just living there, but are being held prisoner there (well, I already knew that since I was aware of the story!) The 'room' they are living in is a small shed outside the home of Joy's abductor, a man she calls "Old Nick" (Sean Bridgers) - she doesn't know his real name. It consists of a bed, a wardrobe, a toilet, a bath, a small TV, and a small kitchen/dining area. The only window is a skylight. Joy has Jack do small laps around the room and push ups to get exercise. Her abductor has a passcode to get in and out and brings them food and sleeps there at night so he can rape the twenty-four year old girl. We learn that Joy has been held captive in this room for seven years and obviously Jack is a product of her abductor. To be honest, I'm surprised she didn't have any more kids. When he spends the night, Joy makes Jack sleep in the wardrobe. There is a moment in the movie when Jack sneaks up on Old Nick when he's sleeping and Joy wakes up and starts freaking out and tells Old Nick to get away from him. One thing is for sure: even though Jack is his son, Old Nick obviously doesn't care about him. He doesn't even know how old he is. Of course, this is a guy who abducted a girl when she was seventeen, raped her repeatedly, and kept her prisoner in a small room for seven years. Remember in my review of The Silence of the Lambs when I said I will never help anyone move a couch into a van because that's how the young girl was abducted in that movie? Well, if someone asks me to look for their dog, I'm not helping them because that was how Joy was abducted in this movie. 

Since Jack has only known "room" (and he refers to it as though it's a town he lives in) his entire (albeit short) life, he is not aware that anything else outside of "room" exists. Everything in "room" is real while everything he sees on the TV, is not. Because Jack has seen spiders and mosquitoes in "room", they are real, but the squirrels and dogs he's seen on TV, are not. The plant (that badly needs to be watered) in "room" is real, but the trees he's seen on TV are not. There's a moment in the film when Jack sees a mouse and gives it crumbs, but Joy throws something at it to scare it and it goes back though the tiny hole it came through. (If you know anything about mice, they can squeeze through the tiniest of holes). Jack accuses his mother of killing the mouse, but Joy tells him the mouse is in the backyard, which confuses the poor child and thinks his mother is talking about a backyard on the TV. 

Since Jack is now five, Joy believes he is old enough to understand what is going on. She tells him how the mouse is on the other side of the wall to which Jack responds with, "What other side?" and his mom tells him there's two sides to every wall...the inside which they are in, and the outside, which they can't see. She explains to him how there is an entire world outside "room" and the things they see on TV are pictures of real things and the people they see on TV are real humans called actors. Jack, being a petulant five-year-old, accuses her of lying to him and you can just see the desperation on Joy's face as she's trying hard to figure out how to make him aware of the truth. 

She comes up with an idea to make Jack's face flushed so he feels like he has a fever and even gags into his hair so he smells sick. (Eww, poor kid). She's hoping this will make Old Nick take him to the emergency room where Jack can give a note to someone explaining their situation. This does not prove to work because Old Nick just tells her that he'll get "stronger stuff" for him next time. 

Joy has been reading "The Count of Monte Cristo" to Jack and if you know anything about that story, it shouldn't surprise you that it will play a big part in this story. Joy tells Jack that she wants him to play dead, much like the main character of the Dumas classic when he escapes from his prison, and she will roll him up in a large rug where then Old Nick will have to take him out in his truck and drive him somewhere to be buried. She carefully explains to Jack that she wants him to stay perfectly still while Old Nick is putting him in the truck, but once they are driving and he's come to a stop, she wants him to unroll from the blanket, jump out of the truck, and run, screaming for help, to the nearest person where he will then give said person the piece of paper explaining his situation with his mother's name. They practice, many times, having him roll and maneuver out of the heavy rug. The whole thing is very traumatizing for Jack and he screams, "I HATE YOU!" at his mother. It is a VERY scary situation for both parties involved. It's scary for Jack because it will be his first time in his life without his mother and in a new environment where he has to perform a difficult physical task (which he does end up achieving while they practice it, but practicing and actually doing it are two totally different things). Also, if he fails, Old Nick will kill both of them. It's scary for Joy because she's relying on a five-year-old child. She has to place all her trust and faith in this child who has never experienced the world and didn't even know the world existed until a couple days ago. 

When Old Nick comes in, Joy has Jack all rolled up and starts crying to him that Jack has died and she wants him to take him somewhere nice to be buried and not the backyard. Luckily, Old Nick abides to her wishes. The moment he takes the boy rolled up in the carpet and shuts the door behind him had to be a scary one for Joy, not knowing if she would see her son again or if she would be rescued. 

The scene with Jack rolled up in the rug in the back of the truck made me so anxious, especially when he begins to roll out. I was literally on the edge of my seat. When Jack starts wiggling out of the rug, I was worried that the abductor was going to notice a movement in his rearview mirror. We see a bunch of train tracks and I was worried that he was taking Jack to a place way out of the way where there would be no people around. A now freed, very visible Jack is out of the rug and standing up in the truck, looking out over the side and I was so worried that the abductor was definitely going to notice him then! As you can see, I was just so worried during this whole ordeal! It's only when he comes to a quick stop, then starts again when Jack falls over and makes a sound that he notices and stops the car. Jack jumps out, disoriented, and runs right into a man walking his dog. Because Jack has long hair, the man mistakes him for a girl. Old Nick grabs Jack and the guy knows there's something wrong, especially when Jack starts saying, "Help!" and reaches to give him the piece of paper that Old Nick takes and crumbles. He also tells the man to mind his own business. When the guy tells him he's going to call the police, Old Nick shoves Jack away and gets back in the car and you think this can't be good news for Joy.

We next see Jack with two police officers who are trying to get answers from him, but he's too confused and upset to even remember his mom's name and since he no longer has the note, they don't have that lead. There was a moment earlier in the film where Joy bites into an apple and a bad tooth comes out (well, she hadn't been to the dentist in seven years...) and she gives it to Jack so he would always have a piece of him with her and he shows it to the police woman. I thought for sure this was how they were going to identify Joy, through her dental records. But it wasn't. He just describes how long they were driving and the police woman seems to know the area he came from and they find and rescue Joy, who miraculously, was still alive. We never find out what happened to Old Nick, but he is presumably sent to jail.

All of this takes place within the first hour and I will admit I was a little surprised at how quickly Joy was rescued. Most movies would have the whole story be about them trying to escape, but that is resolved within the first hour. In the second hour, it deals with Joy getting back to the real world. She is reunited with her parents (played by Joan Allen and William H. Macy), who are divorced. She and Jack move in with her mother. It's very interesting to see Jack acclimatize to his new surroundings. Joy has to show him how to use the steps in her mother's house because he's never had to use steps before and didn't know what they were. (I guess he never saw anyone use them on TV?) There's a very sweet moment when he gets to play with a dog for the first time. And another very sweet moment when he tells his grandma, "I love you."

But just because Joy and her son have been rescued, doesn't mean everything is hunky-dory. The first night the family has dinner together, Joy accuses her father of not being able to look at Jack and after that we never see that character again. I was confused by this, but I guess it was too hard for him to see this child that was also part his daughter's rapist and abductor. She also gets very angry with her mother and accuses her she's the reason she was abducted because her mother always told her to be nice to people and that was the reason why she helped the man with the "lost dog". 

Joy does a TV interview with a talk show host (Wendy Crewson) and it is such a contrast to see how she looked when she was in "room" (no make up, dull, dry hair) to when she does the interview at her mom's house (all made up, nice clothes, shiny hair). She's being asked questions like, "Why didn't you just kill yourself?" She's thrown through a loop when the hosts asks her why she didn't just ask her captor to take Jack to a hospital when he was born so someone else could raise him. I don't think Joy should be punished for this because how would she know he would even take the baby to a safe place and not just get rid of it? And, really, Jack is the whole reason she was rescued in the first place. I have a feeling that interviewer got a lot of angry tweets the next day!

There's a very interesting scene at the end where Joy and Jack go back to "room" because Jack insists on it. I suppose it makes sense he wants to have closure with it because it's the only home he's known. Who knows? Maybe I will check out the book.

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