Whether you want to believe it or not, we are constantly living in a state of fear. So much so that it has changed our culture for the worse. When I listen to my dad talk about his childhood, he used to reminisce about summers where he'd be outside from the moment the sun came up and he wouldn't go back in his house until the sun went down. The idea of kidnapping and predators seemingly never entered into the equation. In fact, for most of my own childhood, it didn't either. I remember having the freedom of riding my bike as a teenager, just as long as I stayed in the subdivision I lived in. I felt like it was enough, so much to explore within the confines of my neighborhood. I feel like when I eventually have children, the thought of allowing my teenager to go for a leisurely bike-ride will have authorities and social workers up my ass. Predators are everywhere; in big cities, in rural cities, on the interstate, on the internet...we have databases and databases packed with predators. And it seems that our culture will never go back to the times when apart of a child's development was aided by non-supervision.
I bring this up, because the basis for the movie "Room" sparks relevance to this case. "Room" is about a girl named Joy (Brie Larson) who was abducted by a man known as Old Nick (Sean Bridgers) when she was 17 years old. When the film begins, it has been seven years since her abduction, and Joy lives in a cramped room with only a bed, a kitchen, a bathtub and a TV. Oh, and she only goes by Ma now, as she has a son named Jack (Jacob Tremblay) whom she loves and cares for. It is never really expressed if Jack and Ma are biologically related, but there is doubt how much Ma cares for her son. Every night, Old Nick visits Ma and Jack and provides for things they need to live. What else does he do on his visits? Well...just use your imagination.
For the first forty minutes or so of "Room," we just focus on Ma and Jack and their day-to-day lives in the room. We see a character piece unfold as a young woman raises a young boy in a such a small enclosure. Jack only believes the world is as big as the room he lives in, and trying to explain that the world is so much more is quite the task for Ma. Plus, living at the will of Old Nick is a challenge onto itself, and staying strong for her child is equally hard. Ma and Jack's good and bad days, their conversations and the things they react to are the profound charm of most of "Room." The movie is driven by these two characters, and both Larson and Tremblay create a poised, grounded relationship. A bond that we as the audience can buy into completely, we can identify with it. While Tremblay is a very good, young actor, I knew Larson would be incredible. I have kept a close eye on Larson since "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World." She hasn't disappointed since in movies like "21 Jump Street," "Short Term 12," "The Gambler," "Don Jon," or "The Spectacular Now." She is, without a doubt, one of the great talents of her generation and I can't wait to see where her career leads her. Oh, and Sean Bridgers is the slimy, snarky villain you thought he would be. He certainly gives me the creeps.
I am a little hesitant to travel further in this review, because I don't want to give too much away. "Room" doesn't have a twist ending. There are no big surprises or big jolts throughout the film. It just doesn't quite unfold as you would think it does. There is a whole new factor in the last hour or so of run time that the movie presents. It digs deeper into our characters and sets up new challenges for them, and through it all Larson and Tremblay deliver. There is also some profound work done by Joan Allen and William H. Macy, both of whom show up within the last half of the film. Both of whom are as great as always.
On the other side of the movie, I am amazed by how hard "Room" hit me. But it just goes to show that a movie doesn't need a massive budget to be great. It doesn't need the most popular A-List star who is hot at the time. It doesn't need cutting-edge special effects or to be adapted from some other massive wonder. All a movie needs is a couple people the audience can relate to pitted in a story worth telling. "Room" succeeds in this, thousandfold.
FINAL GRADE: A