Girl Week 2016 is finally here! We're going to get things started by focusing on a young lady who shows both strength and weakness.
Directed by Lenny Abrahamson.
2015. Rated R, 118 minutes.
William H. Macy
The trick Room manages to pull off is taking two movies and making them one without really trying to integrate the telling of one story into another. The two films are the one of Ma and Jack trying to escape and the one about them after they do. That may seem like a spoiler, but I don't think it is because when it happens, it's merely the beginning of the rest of their lives, not the end of our story. What goes on in Room is incredibly tense, and gut-wrenching. For every moment of it we are on edge, knowing any misstep made could prove fatal to Ma and/or her son. When the film moves away from Room, the real work begins. Jack has to integrate himself into "normal" society while Ma has to put the pieces of her life back together. This is just as worrisome, but in a different way than the early parts of the film. Indeed, the sense of relief one feels after our heroes are free of Old Nick's clutches makes the initial moments following this seem like a lull. In reality, it's where we restart the meter and begin cranking up the tension, once more. We don't worry about Old Nick popping back up to get them, but about the damage he caused Jack, and particularly Ma.
Brie Larson's performance is key to making this work, as well as it does. It's the best performance to date by a young woman who has already done stellar work. What she accomplishes as Ma is nothing short of amazing. She makes her pain become our pain. Her fears are ours, as well. Her frustrations are the same. We ache when she aches and never question whether we should, or not. We just instinctively want to cocoon her with our hugs to protect her from the world. Unfortunately, we realize all of her healing must come from within. Larson does an outstanding job of externalizing all the pain her character has internalized. She does it without seeming like a stark raving maniac, as many actresses would. She is clearly a wounded creature. We're watching her contemplate whether she wants to continue fighting. She has to figure out how much fight she even has left in her. Ma's own mother Nancy is in the same predicament as we are. Joan Allen gives a typically excellent performance of her own in the role. As the person most reaching out to Ma, she is our conduit. In fact, we are Nancy. We want to help so bad, but are helpless to do so.
The hardest part of watching this is how it fractures Ma's relationship with her son. Young Jacob Tremblay has received plenty of praise for his portrayal of the sheltered Jack, and deservedly so. He does exactly what he's called on to do. He makes Jack believable, lovable, and an empathetic figure. The character's naivete is astounding, but understandable given the circumstances of his life. Here is a boy who truly believed everything outside of the place he lived only existed on television. That there are people other than Old Nick beyond the walls of Room is a fact lost on him until he encounters some. I won't say it was one of the best performances of the year, as some have, but I will say he did an excellent job capturing the spirit of such a child.
Director Lenny Abrahamson deserves a ton of credit for showing restraint as a storyteller. In movies dealing with similar subject matter, the norm is to weave the two parts of the tale together through the use of flashbacks. The other way to go is focusing solely on the lead up to the escape and ending the movie with that as its climax. Going in either direction would be acceptable and may have yielded a perfectly fine movie. Splitting the film in half, the way he does, is risky, but it pays off. Along with his leading lady, he forces us to empty our emotions early, only to build them up and empty them again. By the end, we're spent, yet cautiously optimistic about what the future holds for Ma and Jack.
After tomorrow's post I will share links to any of your post that has graced the internet. In the meantime,..