By Alvin Bulaong Cruz
Exploring the limits of a mother’s courage and a child’s innocence
In the Oscar-nominated film Room, a sheltered life takes on a whole new meaning in the eyes of a five-year-old boy Jack (Jacob Tremblay) who sees the world within the four walls of a tiny shack. His young life is sheltered in a literal sense because, together with his Ma (Brie Larson), he has been held captive in a cramped space he calls Room.
Glimpses of reality
Halfway through the film, one sees the importance of paying close attention to the physical environment in which the mother and child have lived in confinement for seven years. Beautifully captured through the gray filters of Danny Cohen’s dramatic cinematography, the opening and succeeding scenes navigate the audience through the four corners of Room.
Here, from the child’s own perspective, we see the few material objects that make up Jack’s tiny universe: the lavatory cistern, the wardrobe, the bed, and the skylight. Each of these things represents a different reality for a child whose closest encounter with the real world is an empty sky as seen through the skylight. Deprived of social interaction, he treats almost everything in Room like a friend he can talk to. In a sense, Room, with all that it contains and stands for, is a safe haven detached from a reality Jack could only imagine.
Growing up “normal”
But life inside Room would be a totally different story for Jack without Ma, who becomes his only real connection with the outside world. Despite her own pain, Ma is a picture of a devoted mother, raising her child to grow up normally under such abnormal circumstances. She bakes him a cake for his birthday, reads him stories, makes snakes out of egg shells to entertain him, and introduces him to a world with real dogs and real trees, which he sees only on TV. At one point, Ma even warns Jack that TV can make his brain “rot away.”
The moments in which Ma gives Jack instructions to make a carefully planned “exit” -from the only world he has known to a world that is completely alien to him – will make you think that Room is a crime thriller. But its director, Lenny Abrahamson, should be credited for showing us that what you see in the movie is not waht it seems. Like what Jack sees in an empty sky through the skylight, Abrahamson does not want us to see the whole pucture all at once, but to imagine it piece by piece.
Beyond the walls
When Jack finally sees the outside world for what it really is, the film begins to unravel before us the true beauty of its main characters. Beyond the walls that sheltered and strengthened their bond, mother and child find out painfully that their lives have changed outside Room. At this point, the film shows its most dramatic, poetic, and philosophical moments.
As Jack struggles to adapt—physically, socially, and psychologically—to an entirely new reality, the film transitions from one level of reality to the next. From innocent simplicity, Jack is suddenly awakened to the enormous complexity of life and the people around him. We can hear him crying out inside in his own words: “There’s so much of place in the world. There’s less time because time has to be spread extra thin over all the places, like butter.”
A class act
Brie Larson is a class act in this movie as she so convincingly portrays a woman whose devotion as a mother is matched only by her own demons. Among her most moving scenes is when she runs to her son after knowing that he’s safe from the captor’s hands. Larson won this year’s Golden Globe Award for Best Actress for Room, and is nominated for Oscar Best Actress for the same movie.
The role of Jack in Room is a very challenging and daring one, but Jacob Tremblay, young as he is, delivers a performance that is so mature and refined it makes you wonder what he will be like as an adult actor several years from now.
True to words
Perhaps what makes the story of Room ring true is the fact that its adaptation remains faithful to the novel on which it was based. Screenwriter Emma Donoghue, who is also the author of the multi-awarded novel of the same title, presents a complex world in the simple language of an extraordinary child. The result is a narrative that is nothing short of poetry. In fact, most of the time, Room borrows lines exactly from the book, which makes the experience of watching the film nearly as pleasurable as reading a good book.
Room is an affirmation of life’s endless search for freedom-not so much from a world that often suffocates but from the self that alienates others. Indeed, a movie like this leaves us more room to break free, to connect, and to find strength in simply being around people who mean the world to us. As Jack tells Ma, “There are many things out here, and sometimes it’s scary. But that’s ok, because it’s still just you and me.”
April 2016 Health and Lifestyle