; Fun! Fun! Vancouver!: VIFF: Room

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

VIFF: Room

(reviewed by Meaghan Smith)

Claustrophobia, Desperation, and then a Slow-Paced Drama


Room is probably one of the only films that I knew anything about before the film fest. I read the book (also called Room) by Emma Donoghue when it came out in 2010. My criticism for the book is carried over into the film and exemplified because of the condescended form.

The first part of Room is sweet with Ma and Jack exploring their extremely small world, a garden shed fitted with a toilet, sink, bath and kitchenette, and exploring their confusing relationship. They fight viciously because of their close space, but they are also all the other one has so they love each other with such extreme devotion that if either were to die it is assumed the other would soon follow. Once their reality is established the movie turns to a quick pace set of plans to escape the room in which they are trapped. The movie until this point is quick and well paced with little superfluous scenes or dialogue. The viewer is given a good sense of the challenges faced by Ma in her sense of duty to protect her son.

The third act however hits a bit of a wall. Once they escape the room the pacing of the film seems to slow to a standstill. Jack and Ma shuffle quickly through the system and are placed in the home of her mother to rehabilitate. William H. Macy comes and goes quickly in a role that almost seems to waste the actor’s immense talent. He shows up long enough to be a naysayer and then disappears for good. Although Ma hits a speed bump halfway through the third act, Jack and Ma seem to progress to normal mental health at a shockingly kick rate.

Herein lies my issue with both Room the movie and Room the novel. It doesn’t totally know what it wants to be. It shows the bleak reality that Ma and Jack face for seven years (five for Jack) and wants a happy ending to give some hope to the story, but in reality the happy ending only last so long. So either Room needs to focus on the escape and call that its happy ending, or focus on the rehabilitation and see the progress towards independence as the happy ending. Where it stands now the happiness of the end seems put upon. Within roughly a month in the film Jack is socializing normally with another child Ma is stable and they are able to move on with their lives. I know I am possibly the only person on the planet that thinks this, but I think that Room is too happy, or at the very least tries too hard to be happy.

That is of course not to say that I didn’t like the movie. It’s still a great story, but my jerk-ish self wants it to be better, or as good as it could be. Brie Larson is so phenomenal in the film that she is barely recognizable as the goofy sexy girl I’ve seen her play before.  Jacob Tremblay is yet another young actor who has astounded me this film festival! He does a great job as the confused and scared Jack.

I recommend this film for those who can handle the darkest corners of society, those who have read the book, or those who are interested in the movie that won this year’s People’s Choice award at TIFF and is a front runner for winning the award again at VIFF! 

Room shows again on October 2nd at 5pm at International Village. 


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