Director: Lenny Abrahamson
Bridging its acts through the narration of lead actor Jacob Tremblay’s ever-growing perspective on the world he lives in, director Lenny Abrahamson has presented modern viewers with a clever reimagining of Plato’s “The Allegory of The Cave”. Fueled by two powerhouse performances by Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay, ROOM is an ode to the power of maternal care, and a thrilling portrayal of the horrific psychological traumas present in the twenty-first century zeitgeist regarding the often too-disturbing-to-tackle subject of forced imprisonment and rape.
ROOM thrives in a youthful sense of blissful ignorance for its opening fifteen minutes, and capitalizes greatly on its viewers’ unawareness of the characters’ tragic circumstances. Throwing a brutal curveball roughly thirty minutes into the narrative, ROOM begins to open up to its audience, allowing for most of its backstory to comfortably explain itself through the audience’s present understanding of abductees that are locked up in cellars, or in this case, sheds, for years at a time. Having said that, ROOM’s trailer does a fantastic job completely ruining this initial experience, blatantly spoiling what the entire first act covers. Although this in no way is a fault that should be associated with the film itself, it ought to be noted that the first act becomes rather tedious for anyone who has already seen the trailer, and thus knows what will happen for the remainder of the film.
FOR GOD’S SAKE IF THIS IS A SPOILER DON’T PUT IT IN THE TRAILER
Abrahamson’s talent as a character-director continues to show in ROOM. After a venture in absurd hilarity with his Michael Fassbender vehicle, FRANK, Abrahamson has geared his attention towards hard-hitting character tragedy, demonstrated in both the film’s pros and cons. Bolstered fantastically by understated performances from William H. Macy and Joan Allen, ROOM manages to cover a number of difficult narrative beats without ever wasting an excessive amount of time dissecting all of the human drama at play. In addition to this, ROOM successfully builds a resonant backstory for its supporting cast without ever actually showing any of it. Thanks to the assured direction on part of Abrahamson, Larson and Tremblay’s on-screen chemistry is palpable, allowing for the gutting dramatic sequences to receive segments of lighter, more optimistic levity.
Do children dream of abducted sheep?
Having said all that, this slowly but surely plays out to the film’s detriment, revealing that although Abrahamson knows his way around commanding an actor, his work is still a little stilted in terms of visual execution. ROOM is never an ugly film (in fact, it’s always a fascinating viewing experience, successfully photographing the world from the waist-high perspective of a five-year-old boy), but it also makes the crucial mistake of never utilizing its camera to really represent Tremblay’s changing outlook on the world. That’s not to say that ROOM absolutely necessitated something like an aspect ratio shift or a change in color tone (although it surely would have been welcome), but the film never becomes visually audacious enough to signal the stark contrast between Tremblay’s life of captivity and that of a free child. Where are the scenes where he is blown away by all the colors in supermarkets? Or the sight of airplanes flying in the sky? Nonetheless, Abrahamson does a stellar job showing that even once freed, Larson and Tremblay live in a home that traps them in a similar color palette as the room they were once held hostage in, taking full advantage of the prison-like bars that make up the home’s entrance.
ROOM is the quintessential film for mothers and fathers of 2015, much like BOYHOOD was the parental release of 2014. But where Ellar Coltrane’s rather uneventful life as the morbidly boring Mason led to a universal feel-good movie, Abrahamson has crafted a more engrossing, emotionally complex film, allowing his protagonists to live out extremely unique lives that allow for an absolutely fascinating meditation on the hardships of motherhood and growing up. Not quite as experimental as Yorgos Lanthimos’ DOGTOOTH, and more thematically focused than Linklater’s BOYHOOD, ROOM is easily among 2015’s finest independent releases, and showcases great potential for the future of director Lenny Abrahamson.