Room is a very interesting movie and it took a while for my thoughts to solidify on it. There are some brilliant moments and brilliant aspects in this movie, slightly blunted by a sense of tedium. Room tells the story of a kidnapped woman and her son who have lived in a wood shed for something like 7 years. Its intriguing and rather emotional, with some complex feelings being bantered about.
Its going to be difficult to talk about this without spoilers, (especially one overarching spoiler) so from this point on, be aware.
The movie doesn’t explicitly tell us what is happening when we are introduced to Joy and Jake in their tiny room, but it is easy to put together the pieces of how they came to be there and why they are being forced to live such a confined life. They are captives of a man named Nick who has foiled Joy’s escape plans enough to dissuade her. However, now she starts fearing for her son’s life and knows that the time to escape has come.
Their time in the room takes up about half of the movie. During this time we see how Joy is able to cope in this imprisonment and try to be a mother at the same time. Jake however lives his life as though this is the only world that he knows, because it is. Its fascinating the way he as developed his own views of how the world works, and how everything in TV doesn’t really exist. However, this segment of the film begins to become overlong and tedious, as horrible as that might sound. Luckily, just as the momentum begins to run dry, the film switches things up with the escape attempt.
Before the escape, Room was merely interesting and sad. But when Joy tries to smuggle Jake out of the room is when the movie really finds its footing. The entire ‘jailbreak’ sequences is wonderfully filmed and brimming with tension. It works so well because you as a viewer who have been following the plight of these two people so desperately want them to escape, and are heart-achingly worried that it won’t go right.
This leads us to the second half of the movie which shows how Joy and Jake try to adjust to being back in the real world. And this half is very similar to the first half in that it starts off intriguing, but begins to drag out eventually. And by dragging out I don’t necessarily mean plot pacing, but emotionally.
Lets see if I can explain. The emotional core of room sort of has a spectrum of moments, some of which are very subtle and others which are pretty blunt. There were some beats which sort of made e roll my eyes in their obvious attempts at a reaction. For example, when Joy is practicing rolling up Jake in the carpet and he yells “I hate you!”, that simply didn’t ring true for me, and felt like it was the filmmaker trying to reach for something shocking. Eye roll. Also, Joy’s fight with her mom in the living room, while I understood the basis behind it, felt too TV drama-ish and didn’t work.
But that’s not to say that this movie didn’t tug at my heart-strings at all, because it certainly did. It was in the smaller moments that this happened, and they were very effective. For example, the look Joan Allen gives when Jake mentions Old Nick’s visits, Jake meeting the dog for the first time, and telling his Grandma that he loves her. There were lots of those tiny bits of character growth and acceptance that strengthened this movie.