• Teresa Xie


The first time I watched Room, I was deeply uncomfortable, as the film so expertly twists and turns elements of fantasy and reality, telling a story of survival through an impenetrable bond between mother and son.

Starring Brie Larson as the protagonist, Room revolves around a woman, Joy "Ma" Newsom (Brie Larson) and her son (Jacob Tremblay) who have been held captive for years in an enclosed space. Joy’s son, Jack, was born in captivity of a man referred to as “Old Nick,” (Sean Bridgers) who abducted Joy as a teenager. According to Jack, a world outside of the room in which him and Joy are held in does not exist. However, one day, Joy and Jack come up with a ploy for Old Nick to take Jack outside of the room by having Jack play dead. The story only escalates from there.

Room is heartbreaking to watch, as we see the room through the lens of Joy and Jack. Joy has made the room seem like a fairytale world for Jack, telling him stories of the likes of Count of Monte Cristo and Wonderland. However, we can see the way Joy sees the room as it is, imprisoning her and her son. In many ways, Joy constructs a fairytale room not only for Jack, but also her own sanity. We want to believe this fairytale as well, despite the fact that what we see on screen is a dark and dirty, claustrophobic space.

The film’s greatest success is its portrayal of Jack and the way he sees the world. It would be easy to paint Jack as a boy of childish naivety. However, the film understands Jack’s confusion, his deprived social contact, and his willingness to accept the world he has been born into. A testament to his abilities occurs when Joy tries to explain to Jack what the outside world is like as part of their plan to let him escape. As Jack struggles to put the pieces together, Joy pushes through with an unparalleled fierceness. As a viewer, we feel anxious thinking about Jack’s world being torn down, but also understand Joy’s struggle between desperately trying to free them and disrupting Jack’s conception of his life thus far.

The most painful part of the film is watching Joy and Jack attempt to adjust to the real world after escaping from Old Nick’s grasp. At least in the room, we see that they have each other. In the real world, it seems that their every move is judged, from the past they couldn’t control to the way that Jack behaves as a result of only interacting with his mom for the past few years of his life. We feel pain for Joy when she gets interviewed on television and is guilted into thinking that she made the mistake of keeping Jack, as opposed to sending him to a hospital.

The Room is neither a horror story, nor a psychological thriller. Although, at many points, we may feel it is so, the film tells a much greater story of the human spirit. It reminds us that we are not our past, and that if we so choose, it does not have to define us. As we follow Jack and Joy throughout the film, we see an incredible journey of perseverance, even in a world constructed solely by the four walls around them.

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