Note: The following review briefly touches on several plot points in the second half of Room. I would consider these elements to be spoiler. However, the second half of the film is clearly shown in the trailer and I feel it would be nearly impossible to discuss the movie properly without bringing these points up.  Read ahead with caution.

The best movies should have some kind of emotional connection with the viewer. We need to care about the stories and the characters, otherwise the film will lose the impact that it could have had. Lenny Abrahamson’s Room had all the ingredients to be a truly moving picture. Unfortunately, the film just didn’t resonate with me for some reason. I can appreciate all the effort that went into it, but I just couldn’t become engaged with the material. It features great performances inside of an intriguing story, but it’s a bit too schmaltzy to truly love.

Brie Larson stars as Joy, a young woman who was kidnapped when she was 17 and locked inside a single room by her captor (Sean Bridgers), whom she nicknames Old Nick. Eventually he impregnates her and she gives birth to her son Jack (Jacob Tremblay). The two stay locked in the room for five years, with Jack knowing nothing of the outside world. Old Nick provides them with a bed, clothes, food, water and even a TV, but he doesn’t show any signs of letting them out. Realizing that she would rather die than have her son live such a miserable life, Joy concocts a plan to escape. But escape means change and having lived in a single room for so long might mean that the two of them aren’t ready for the outside world.

Larson is truly great in this role, exhibiting both strength and weakness in her portrayal of Joy. Joy has to stay strong for her son, but she’s also become a damaged woman. She was taken from her family without a moment’s notice and her captor rapes and abuses her. So when she’s around Jack, we can tell that she’s putting out a false sense of happiness, but her courage helps her overcome the most difficult situations. When situations change in the film’s second half, we get to really see the trauma that seven years of torture has inflicted upon her and Larson never hits a false note. The young Tremblay is also pretty great as Jack, convincingly portraying a young boy who has never seen the world before. Considering how badly this could have been in the hands of a less capable child actor, he should definitely be applauded for his efforts.

Similar to the novel that the film is based on, the entire story is told from the perspective of Jack. This is an interesting decision, but one that ultimately has mixed results. I can’t think of any similar films that have taken this approach, so I commend screenwriter Emma Donoghue (who also wrote the book) for trying out this concept. It’s clear that one of the intentions of the film is to show both the good and the bad of the world through the eyes of a young child. Unfortunately, the themes that come out of this idea seem only half-formed and this leads to a lot of cheesy dialogue from Jack. This also prevents us from experiencing some of the more interesting aspects of the story; if this had been told from Joy’s perspective, we could have seen how she dealt with initially being captured, or how she reacted to fathering her captor’s child.

That’s not to say that there’s nothing worthwhile in the film, but it’s frustrating because this single miscalculation really damages the film. I think I would have cared more about the mother/son relationship and the entire story in general if we had seen things through Joy’s eyes. Thankfully, the concept is intriguing enough to carry you through the two-hour runtime and the performances cover up a lot of the mistakes made by the director and screenwriter. When the film finally gets to its final scene, the film will be telling you to cry, but you just won’t be able to do it. Room is certainly not a bad film, but the great performances will have you wishing that it was so much better.

Room receives 2.5/4

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