Kidnapped at fourteen and locked up in a room for seven years with a five year old child conceived through violence, director Lenny Abrahamson’s film inspired by Emma Donoghue’s novel of the same name - a composite of true events - is titled ROOM; a delicate and harrowing story of two people caught in a private space, where they live a life of extreme tenderness and tension. The actors are excellent, Brie Larson as Ma and Jacob Tremblay as Jack create a home/neighborhood/community/country inside a small, cluttered “room” with occasional shafts of light beaming down from a skylight that displays the stars and moving clouds - the outside “world” a dream beyond their reach.
A television sputtering on the blink allows that other “world” entry, but for young Jack, what he sees flickering on the screen is both real and “make believe” ; distinctions have been erased and are unknowable. The relationship between mother and child is stunning - the connection between them is acutely poignant, as if the umbilical cord had never been severed. Days are spent exercising, running back and forth- sharp turns are necessary after a few steps, making us aware of the claustrophobic feel of the space; and Ma’s attempt to teach her son to read and maintain a somewhat “normal” existence is impressive and heart-rending. Jack’s poetic and descriptive use of words to describe his circumscribed environment invokes the originality and charm of expressing and interpreting what we see and feel through language tailored to one’s unique cosmos. We also witness the chilling visits of “Old Nick” her captor whose step on the stairs on his way to the “room” is a sign for little Jack to hide and feign sleep behind a shuttered closet door - the presence of “evil” glimpsed through cracks in the battered and weatherworn slats.
When Jack turns five his mother decides he is old enough to participate in an escape plan involving resilience and courage which eventually succeeds. Mother and child are hospitalized and the second half of ROOM begins. How to acclimate one’s self to being separate individuals, after the powerful link between them is sundered - a tie which was both nourishing and restrictive? Accommodation to “freedom” begins, and the aching awareness of the familiar becoming unfamiliar, as well as the unfamiliar becoming familiar, are daunting and formidable.
ROOM is an exquisitely fragile story of the pliancy of the human resolve to survive and adapt to suffocating circumstances and adjust to the shock of change after flight and rescue. A child’s ability to embrace the magic of his new environs - as one Dr. mentioned in examining Jack, “he is still plastic”; and an adult’s more complex road to acclimatization which includes grieving the loss of a singular bond where the “other” completes you to the exclusion of everyone else.