"It’s proof that the bond between a mother and her child, even in the most desolate of circumstances, can prove unbreakable"
Room, the cinema adaption of Irish author Emma Donoghue’s best-selling novel, is a powerful study on the impact of love, and hope.
The room in question is a basic garden shed, which has been locked from the outside, where a sexually abused young woman and her five-year-old child are being permanently imprisoned; cut off from the outside world bar a skylight, tantalisingly close but too high to prove a way to escape.
Lenny Abrahamson’s film, starring rising actress Brie Larson and Canadian newcomer Jacob Tremblay, tells the deeply disturbing tale of a woman, Joy, forced to raise her little boy in that single room.
Told from the wide-eyed perspective of her son Jack, for whom the four walls and the contents - primarily a TV on a rickety table - close in on his mamma but represent his whole world. This is a hard watch from the start.
As a mother of two young boys, a lump in my throat formed 10 minutes in and didn’t really leave me for the rest of the film. It’s full of unfolding horrors, but it is also a stunningly beautiful mother-son love story which will get even the hardest-hearted of cine-freaks.
‘Room’ may be Joy’s prison, but to Jack, who was born ‘in captivity’ so to speak, it is his world. He doesn’t know what he’s missing. The people Jack sees on TV simply ‘live in the TV’. The only living creatures he’s ever seen are mosquitoes, spiders and the odd field-mouse.
Both Larson and Tremblay are impeccable, and director Abrahamson does a great job with what is a tricky story, bringing the minutiae of their claustrophobic lives into painfully sharp focus.
Joy was, for instance, a former track star at high school. Now, in one of their many daily rituals, she makes sure her son does his own form of ‘track’ each morning to stay in shape – even if three steps bring him from one side of the room to the other.
Though it’s skirted over, there are quick glimpses in the film that reveal Jack - who looks a lot like his mother with his lengthy blonde, uncut hair - is still being breastfed. He copies his mother (why wouldn’t he, with no other point of reference?) and it’s all pretty heartbreaking.
Much of Room’s success is based on the depiction of this pair’s primal, intense bond. It’s almost like the umbilical cord was never cut, though in a normal world Jack would be at school and gaining independence rapidly. That is both beautiful and soul-destroying at the same time.
On the verge of some kind of a breakdown, Larson’s Joy is incredibly convincing, always looking for a way out of this insanity but simultaneously trying to find ways to make her son’s existence more pleasurable, or simply more real.
In the second part of the film, Joan Allen and William H Macy appear as Larson’s parents, both slightly vapid in their middle-America roles and add a whole new layer of creepiness to the film.
As a standalone film (because I’ve no comparison to make with the novel), this is powerful stuff. It’s proof that the bond between a mother and her child, even in the most desolate of circumstances, can prove unbreakable.
Bring hankies, and plenty of them…