Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway
"Room" is the tense and visceral story of a mom, Joy (Brie Larson), and her son, Jack (Jacob Tremblay), as they face confinement at the hands of a pathological monster (Sean Bridgers) in a one room shed for 8 years.
This could very well be a horror film and in many ways it is, in a way. But it also goes much deeper in its questioning of what is actually real and tangible in our world.
Joy and Jack are sequestered in a squalid margarine-yellow shed. The only square of light is from a small window in the ceiling. Usually they are left alone, all but abandoned, by themselves with a mattress and a hot plate. To protect Jack, his mother tells him that the room they inhabit is the only true environment.
Jack begins to see TV as reflections from other planets with the objects in his immediate environment becoming personified and alive with a human and generous spirit: the table, a chair, a TV, even a mere scorched spoon have the ability to emote and empathize.
From time to time, Jack and his mother are frightened by heavy footsteps: the faceless form of their captor Old Nick, who tortures the two with intimidation and violence. As Nick is dark, thatchy and opaque, he becomes a Boogeyman from ghost stories or a Big Bad Wolf.
The only sense of normalcy comes from the unbreakable bond that mother and son share.
Though this film has elements from David Lynch to Stanley Kubrick in its eerie tones, director Lenny Abrahamson gives this film a laser-focus highlighting the human qualities given to some domestic objects to the point of creating a new and unique vocabulary.
The director uses nothing extraneous or heavy handed. Based on a novel by Emma Donahue, this meditative tale disguised as a thriller is highly individual, stressing the psychological implications of what it means to be kidnapped through the eyes of a protected five year old boy.
Some might feel that the story recalls the horror house case of Ariel Castro and his kidnapping of three women in 2003. But while that true crime does share elements with this film, the story here is more concerned with the definition of what makes up reality.
The most stirring segments of "Room" portray the boy in the guise of an extraterrestrial with little concrete knowledge of the outside world. He looks at hard-edged buildings with a sense of awe and palpable dread.
Jack sees himself as a traveler, marooned on a oddly pale planet and we believe him.
Such moments bring to mind "The Man Who Fell to Earth" as well as a Kubrickian mind meld when the young boy's mouth is overstretched in panic and unbearable fright.
William H. Macy and Joan Allen turn in believable if somewhat predictable roles as Joy's parents, who are strained to the point of numbness.
The power of "Room" is in its unflinching detail and the emphasis of a new world order in its description of one sad cubicle made colorful through the action of a child.
The last disquieting thing that one is left with is the hard fact that, through most of the film, Jack likes his flat and rectangular existence.
Write Ian at email@example.com