Because of this website, I am fortunate enough to see a lot of my movies early. I managed to see Room back in November, and have been holding off from reviewing it until closer to the Australian release, which is just next week. It's been nearly two whole months since I saw this movie and it's been constantly floating around in my head, the impact it had on me always resurfacing. This may not be the greatest film I've ever seen, and you'll soon find out why, but it sure was good, and it's certainly one that will stick with me.
Based on the best-selling novel by Emma Donoghue, who also wrote the screenplay for the movie, Room tells the story of Ma (Brie Larson) and her five year old son, Jack (Jacob Tremblay). For six years, Ma has been held captive in a garden shed that Jack has named 'room.' Jack has never seen the outside world, and as a matter of fact, doesn't even know it exists. Soon, however, an opportunity arrises for Jack to escape, and Ma takes it, setting her son free in the hopes that he'll come back for her. He does, and from here on out, the two must adjust to the real world, something Jack has never experienced before. Room is a moving and unforgettable experience that you will need to bring tissues for. I cried. Twice.
When talking about this film, I almost have to discuss it as two films, as that's what it is. There's two stories being told here, and no, discussing both of them wouldn't be considered a spoiler as the second story is the main promotional material for this film. For a little under half this film's runtime, Room is the story of a mother and a son who are trapped in a place they cannot escape from. We get to know their daily routine, source of supplies and interactions with the man keeping them there, amongst other things. The second half is a tale of adjusting to the outside world and the love a mother has for their child. While I was invested in both of the stories, it's quite clear that the first half is far superior to the second.
When the two of them are stuck in this room, it really gives the filmmakers a chance to flesh these characters out and get us invested in their lives, despite them really not doing much. It's a beautiful and quite captivating experience that's painstakingly emotional. Lenny Abrahamson, the man behind 2014's brilliant film, Frank, has managed to spend close to an hour with just two characters stuck in a room and he's made it some of the best cinema of 2015. His camera work is stellar and the story being told is an engaging one. If the second half was on the same level as the first, Room could just be one of the best movies of last year. Unfortunately it's not.
This second half, while it is the cause of my many tears, just didn't have quite as big of an impact on me as the first half did. The second half sees our two leads out in the world, experiencing everything for the first time, or for Ma, the first time in many, many years. It's an eye opening thing to watch it brought out many emotions inside of me, but I wasn't able to connect with them. When watching the first half, the two characters had me hooked. There were brief moments of annoyance, but that is all. During the second half, they feel a little distant, and Ma is most definitely under-utilised. The same can be said for William H. Macy, who's in the film for a very limited amount of time and is hardly relevant to anything.
Now, I'm not saying that this second half is bad. It's far from it. I enjoyed it and the filmmaking on display is glorious, but I just can't say I enjoyed it as much as I did when they were in room. That being said, the performances in this movie are utterly magnificent. Brie Larson has never been better, and that's saying something. Her performance is full of raw emotion and authenticity and she deserves *almost* all the recognition she's been getting. I say almost as she did not deserve to win that Golden Globe. She's great and all, but did the voters even watch Carol? I saw that film for a second time today and Cate Blanchett steals that movie.
To sum up, Room is an emotionally powerful film with a brilliant first half and a decent second half. The performances are all great, particularly that of Brie Larson, but not all the characters are utilised to their full potential and there's not an awful lot to latch onto in the second half.
3 1/2 Stars