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Room

November 6, 2016

Room (2016)
Director: Lenny Abrahamson
Actors: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen

Room-1200x794-324x214.png (324×214)

Synopsis: A woman (Brie Larson) has been kidnapped and kept in absolute confinement for a number of years. Her son, Jack (Jacob Tremblay) – the product of rape by the captor – is her only source of hope, and together, as the years go by, they plot their escape….

Review: By the closing shots of Room, any of its ancillary benefits as a work of sheer emotional force and its performances of staggering grace (namely the turn by child actor Jacob Tremblay) are obscured by the bludgeoning conceitedness of its scenario which it carries unsubtly through the entirety of its running time.

This conceit – the ‘ironic’ perspective of the boy with his wondrous absorption in the totality of “Room”, masking that place’s sinister reality – is simply too literal and obvious. Abrahamson plays too much into the material, utilising an intentionally twee musical score to emphasise the subtext of the child’s perspective, and he films the story in a faux experiential balm. The problem being that this a film that wants to eat from its highly dramaturgical confection, so ambitions toward something more transcendent in exploring the properties of the child’s new, widened existence are betrayed by the need for us, the audience, to “get” the subtext at every turn.

The thematic territory of Room had immense promise for a more ambitious filmmaker. Just to go off on a tangent, I’ve always wondered about the ethics of blindness, and how – if a blind person gained sight for the first time in their lives – would they even be able to comprehend their newfound vision or would there be no correlation to their previous immersion in words and imagination only? Room hints at some of these complexities in the boy’s processing of his new domain (the tactile ‘pet therapy’ scene with a dog is unquestionably moving) but too often Abrahamson and the scenario veer down the soapy route – especially in inducing unrealistic conflict in the film’s final third when the mother predictably breaks down under the scrutiny of the media, and her dysfunctional family replete with conveniently separated grandparents have a wrought conflab at the most inappropriate of times. (November 2016)

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