Room (2015) is a film that presents the dark subject matter of kidnap and abuse in an intelligent and emotionally engaging manner, as the relationship between mother and child is heavily focused upon. The performance of Brie Larsson who won the Oscar for this role combined with the visuals maintains the constant trauma for victims of kidnap. Abrahamson connects with both the kidnap victim and the relatives before and after the escape in an emotional and true to life manner.
The film begins in ‘room’, the place where Joy and Jack are trapped, living a simple and restricted life. Jack’s naivety contrasting with his Mothers pain and trauma is perhaps the captivating and emotive element of the film, as he believes that there is nothing outside of room. Abrahamson captures his pure innocence and naivety through visuals of him exploring his imagination, and joy he feels for insignificant things. The safety that he feels in the room contrasts heavily with Joy, who lives every day knowing the truth and being sexually abused by Old Nick. The initial position of the audience is with Jack’s ignorance, as the true nature of their living situation is kept a mystery for the beginning of the film. The film continues to follow the perspective of Jack throughout, as the visuals and audio attune to his sensory overload of life outside ‘room’. This perspective of the child can often alienate Joy’s thoughts, as she could be considered the real victim who has not been able to live in ignorance. Abrahamson creates a thought provoking perspective as Joy struggles through her decisions, Brie Larsson continuously expressing the raw and unapologetic emotions of a mentally scarred kidnap victim. However, the full explanation of traumatic events its not explained throughout, possibly as the film comes from the perspective of Jack and the subject matter is such a sensitive topic in the media.
Abrahamson effectively portrays true to life events, without the embellishment of Hollywood hyperrealism. The escape of Jack in particular is an extremely thrilling and suspenseful scene that would without a doubt leave any audience member on the edge of their seat, as the realism of the film heightens the intensity of every moment. The bleakness of the situation throughout is littered with heartfelt moments of the love between Joy and Jack. The film focuses on the strength of the relationship between mother and son over anything, which is captivating and thought provoking as the situation is so unimaginably traumatic. Joy’s crisis as a woman and a mother inspires both sympathy for her conflicted emotions and continues the bleak and realistic aesthetics. Without these elements the film may not have been able to portray the trauma of kidnap in such a bleak but graceful manner. Criticisms of the film however could be the distinct split into two parts, in the room and in the real world, the section in the room being more unique and engaging. This could be attributed to the film being based upon the novel Room by Emma Donoghue, so Abrahamson faced the challenge of condensing the book into the a feature length structure.
Room provides a bleak and brutally realistic aesthetic that is not necessarily meant to be entertainment. It is instead to provoke thoughts and strong emotions in an audience so they can understand the trauma of kidnap, through the visuals and the cultural significance of the subject of kidnap in the media. Both Brie Larsson and Jacob Trembley act so superbly that the strength of the bond between mother and son becomes the ultimate strength of Room.
Personal summary – The film is hard hitting but sensitive. A must watch for anyone looking for a film that will keep you on the edge of your seat with its thrills, but primarily maintains the emotional vulnerability of a mother and child’s relationship.