This is primarily because we’re embodying the role of Jack (Jacob Tremblay) who has recently celebrated his fifth birthday in ‘room’ – where he lives, and always has done, in confinement with his mother, Joy (Brie Larson). She was abducted by the tyrannical degenerate Nick (Sean Bridgers) seven years earlier, and locked up in this claustrophobic setting ever since, where she has been left to raise her son – who is also, of course, a result of Nick’s sadistic ways. But then the times comes to plot an escape – and Joy intends on faking Jack’s death to get him out and give him the chance to see and witness something he never has before; the outside world.
Abrahamson – adapting the popular Emma Donoghue novel, while the author also pens the screenplay – has ensured this piece remains so wonderfully understated, in sequences where so many other filmmakers would have thrived in taking a far more theatrical, melodramatic approach. Much of Room survives in the subtext, with Larson’s performance in particular so full of subtlety and nuance. Even their escape into the outside world and the integration back into society – it’s not unadulterated happiness, it’s tough and challenging and the overwhelming surprise at living normally again can be internally destructive.
To capture that magical tone though and to ensure that, while naturalistic, there’s a beautiful poignancy to the picture, we have a rousing score by Stephen Rennicks, but it also helps that we see the world through the eyes of Jack. We, much like the character, don’t even see the outside until he’s first exposed to it, and from thereon we always see everything from his perspective, which aids that sense of wonderment and prevents this taking too harrowing a turn, such is his naivety and blissful ignorance. Abrahamson remains faithful to this notion too, as even during big, implicative moments, we always see it from his angle, and there will be scenes where we want to know how Joy is getting along, and yet we don’t reconvene with her until Jack does.
It’s a breathtakingly impressive turn from the young Tremblay too, who bears similarities to a modern day Tarzan or Mowgli, especially when he parades around with his long hair in a pair of pants – and in some ways, his tale isn’t too different either, of somebody seeing the world differently for the very first time. But this picture remains unique, especially in how half of the feature focuses on their reintegration. So many films of this nature would build up and then conclude with the payoff being that of pair’s escape, but we studiously linger over what happens after that incident, and the repercussions of their ordeal. Which is just as intriguing a premise and is what allows this picture to stand out as being one of the most rewarding and captivating features you’ll see in a good, long while.